Scientists Find Signs Of A Time Crystal In A Child’s Toy

Posted: May 3 2018, 11:48am CDT | by , Updated: May 3 2018, 12:56pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

Scientists Find Signs of a Time Crystal in a Child’s Toy
A signature of a discrete time crystal observed in a crystal of monoammonium phosphate. Credit: Yale University

Time crystals could one day be used to build revolutionary technologies such as quantum computing

Yale researchers have found signs of time crystal in a completely unexpected place: a child’s toy. The surprising find can provide more insight into the formation and behavior of mysterious structures known as time crystals.

Ordinary crystals, such as salt, sugar or even diamonds, are periodic arrangements of atoms in a three-dimensional order. These crystals never change with time. Time crystals, on the other hand, repeat themselves in time as well. Their atoms spin periodically from one direction to the other, leading to moment to moment changes in a crystal.

Time crystals have fascinated physicists for many years. Some even thought that time crystals are physically impossible because of their weird properties. In the latest effort, researchers were able to uncover hints of a time crystal or it's “ticks” when exposed to an electromagnetic pulse. This marks only the second time researchers have observed a telltale signature of a discrete time crystal (DTC) during an experiment.

"We decided to try searching for the DTC signature ourselves," said Sean Barrett, lead researcher and a professor at Yale University. "My student Jared Rovny had grown mono-ammonium phosphate (MAP) crystals for a completely different experiment, so we happened to have one in our lab."

Monoammonium phosphate crystals are often found in commercial crystal growing kits aimed at youngsters, mainly because they are safe and can be grown overnight. But researchers were surprised to find a time crystal signature inside a MAP crystal because they were thought to be formed in more disordered structures. When researchers used nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), they quickly found a DTC signature.

“Our work suggests that the signature of a DTC could be found, in principle, by looking in a children's crystal growing kit." Barrett said.

Researchers suggest that understanding time crystals may lead to improvements in atomic clocks, gyroscopes as well as building revolutionary technologies such as quantum computing.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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