What Are They and Why Are They Necessary?

Time Crystals: What Are They and Why Are They Important?

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17, 2020

3 min read

This article has been translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors can occur due to this process.

There is a phase of matter that emulates a crystalline structure in the fourth dimension, time, and not just in space. This is exactly what scientists from the University of Granada (southern Spain) and the University of Tübingen (Germany) discovered: a new method for generating time crystals from extreme fluctuations in the physical systems of many particles.

Time crystals are a new state of matter recently proposed by the Nobel laureate in physics Frank Wilczek from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the USA.

This discovery is particularly relevant in areas such as metrology, for the design of more precise clocks or in quantum computers, where time crystals can be used to simulate ground states or to design more robust quantum computers, the scientists said.

In time crystals – the existence of which was first suggested in 2012 – the atoms repeat a pattern through the fourth dimension, time, as opposed to normal crystals (like a diamond), whose atoms are arranged in a repeating spatial structure, explained the University of Granada .

These new temporary crystals are characterized by a periodic movement in time.

Rubén Hurtado Gutiérrez, Carlos Pérez Espigares and Pablo Hurtado, researchers from the Department of Electromagnetism and Physics of Matter at the University of Granada, among others, show in this study that certain dynamic phase transitions that occur in the rare fluctuations of many physical systems break spontaneously the translational symmetry in time.

To carry out the simulations of this work, the scientists used the Proteus supercomputer from the Carlos I Institute of Theoretical and Computational Physics at the University of Granada, which is considered one of the most powerful supercomputers for general scientific computation in Spain.

Einstein's time and theory of relativity

Researcher Pablo Hurtado explained: "Einstein's theory of relativity taught us that time is somehow flexible and is inextricably linked to space in a whole that we know as spacetime."


This union is partial, however, as time is still special in many ways, according to the scientist who gives as an example: “We can move between any two points in space, but we still cannot visit the past . Time has an arrow while space has no such arrow. "

In their study, the scientists propose a previously unexplored way of constructing time crystals based on the recent observation of the spontaneous breakdown of temporal translational symmetry in fluctuations in many-body systems.