Time Crystals

If you are like me, I heard the term “Time Crystals and I was immediately intrigued. When you hear the words time crystals you think of Sci-fi films, like something from Doctor Who. I had to read a few articles before I started to understand the concept of Time crystals and what they are. They are very real, although to my disappointment they have nothing to do with time travel. Time Crystals are a newly discovered state of matter that joins other states such as solids, liquids and gaseous states.  The concept of “crystal” differs from the usual meaning of the word. For scientists, a crystal is a solid having a molecular makeup of a crystal lattice. Time crystals are similar to regular crystals in that they made up of atoms that are arranged in a pattern. This pattern repeats itself across physical space, creating a lattice structure. This structure extends out in three dimensions, and because it repeats itself, crystals have recognizable structures. Time crystals differ from regular crystals because instead of repeating their patterns across physical space, they repeat them through time instead.

This strange phase of matter was first predicted by the American Nobel laureate and physicist Frank Wilczek in 2012, who proposed it might be possible for atoms to change over time even while at their lowest energy, much as a superconductor can technically carry an electrical current while in its lowest energy state. This means they can – theoretically – repeat forever without an energy source, which makes them sound suspiciously like a perpetual motion machine. According to the laws of thermodynamics, such devices are impossible, which some think makes time crystals a ‘no go’ zone. 

Time crystals are an insanely complicated subject and not particularly relevant to 99 per cent of the population (at least for now), which is probably why you haven’t heard much about them, despite the magnitude of this scientific breakthrough. So how might time crystals be used in the future? Time crystals might one day have technological implications, too. For example, time crystals may form the basis for a nearly perfect memory unit for powerful quantum computers. Still, one of the most exciting things about time crystals is that because they’re so new and exotic, even physicists can’t get a grasp of their full potential yet.

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