Yale physicists find signs of a time crystal
Yale physicists have uncovered hints of a time crystal, a form of matter that “ticks” when exposed to an electromagnetic pulse. Time crystals, first identified in 2016, are different. Their atoms spin periodically, first in one direction and then in another, as a pulsating force is used to flip them. That’s the “ticking.” In addition, the ticking in a time crystal is locked at a particular frequency, even when the pulse flips are imperfect.
Scientists said that understanding time crystals may lead to improvements in atomic clocks, gyroscopes, and magnetometers, as well as aid in building potential quantum technologies. The U.S. Department of Defense recently announced a program to fund more research into time crystal systems.
Yale’s new findings are described in a pair of studies, one in Physical Review Letters and the other in Physical Review B. The studies represent the second known experiment observing a telltale signature for a discrete time crystal (DTC) in a solid.
“We decided to try searching for the DTC signature ourselves,” said Yale physics professor Sean Barrett, principal investigator for the two new studies. The researchers used nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to look for a DTC signature and quickly found it. “Our work suggests that the signature of a DTC could be found, in principle, by looking in a children’s crystal growing kit,” Barrett added.