Major breakthrough in time crystal research

We were able to show that this spacetime crystal is stronger and has a larger oscillation range than initially thought,” said physicist Pavel Grudzkecki of Adam Mickiewicz University in Poland. Our crystal condenses at room temperature and interacts with particles, unlike isolated systems. In addition, it is already available with specifications that have possible applications. That will undoubtedly lead to many technological breakthroughs”

The existence of Time crystals, sometimes called spacetime crystals, was not confirmed until a few years ago. As the name suggests, they are fascinating – very similar to ordinary crystals, but also with unusual properties.

In regular crystals, the atoms form a fixed three-dimensional lattice structure – consider the atomic lattice of a diamond or quartz crystal. These repeating lattices can differ in construction, but in a given configuration they do not deviate from the attitude: they repeat themselves spatially.

In temporal crystals, the atoms behave slightly differently. They oscillate, rotating first in one direction and then in the other. These oscillations are locked to regular specific frequencies. Thus, in the same way that the structure of a regular crystal repeats itself in space, a time crystal repeats itself in space and time.

To study time crystals, scientists often use condensates of ultracold Bose-Einstein magneton quasiparticles. Magnetic oscillators are not true particles, but rather look as if they are made of electron spin aggregation excitations – like waves propagating through a spin lattice.

A team led by Grudzkecki and colleague Nick Träger, a doctoral student in physics at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Germany, did something different. They placed a strip of magnetic Pomo alloy on the antenna, through which they could send an RF current.

The current creates an oscillating magnetic field in the strip, and electromagnetic waves propagate from both ends to the strip. These waves stimulate magnetic oscillators in the strip, and these moving magnetic oscillators then condense into repeating patterns.

“We let the pattern of magneton oscillations repeat periodically on space-time, and eventually, the pattern propagated. As a result, we were able to show that time crystals can interact with other quasiparticles. No one else has been able to show this directly in an experiment, let alone record it in a video.”

The video shows magnetic waves propagating through a steel strip; it was taken at 40 billion frames per second using a MAXYMUS X-ray microscope at the BESSY II synchrotron radiation facility at the Helmholtz Zentrum in Berlin, Germany.

Time crystals should remain stable and coherent over long periods of time because, in theory, they oscillate at the lowest energy state. The team’s research has shown that driven magnesium time crystals can be easily manipulated, opening up new ways to reconfigure time crystals. This could open up states of matter for a range of practical applications.

Classical crystals have a wide range of applications,” said Joachim Graf, a physicist at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems. Now, if crystals can interact not only in space but also in time, the range of applications will expand extremely. The potential of temporal crystals in the field of communication, radar or imaging technology is enormous.”

Their paper has been published in Physical Review Letters.