For the first time, scientists have observed an interaction of a rare and baffling form of matter called time crystals. The crystals look at a glance like “regular” crystals, but they have a relationship to time that both intrigues and puzzles scientists because of its unpredictability. Now, experts say they could have applications in quantum computing.
Scientists only theorized the existence of time crystals starting in the 2010s, making this the state-of-matter equivalent of so-called ruby chocolate – is it really a new thing or just a special case of something else? (Sorry, ruby chocolate, we’re not convinced).
By 2015, researchers were outlining ways time crystals could exist, generalized as a “non-equilibrium form of matter”:
“The team was investigating what happens when certain isolated quantum systems, made of a potpourri of interacting particles, are frequently prodded by shining a laser on them. Counterintuitive to conventional physics, which maintained that mayhem would ensue once the systems would heat up, the Princeton team’s calculations showed that under certain conditions, the particles would glue together to form a phase of matter with properties previously unseen.”
Now, researchers say, they’ve collided two time crystals to see what happens next. “Our results demonstrate that time crystals obey the general dynamics of quantum mechanics and offer a basis to further investigate the fundamental properties of these phases, opening pathways for possible applications in developing fields, such as quantum information processing,” they explain in a new paper.
Read more: Popular Mechanics