The concept of time crystal sounds like something inspired by a sci-fi movie, but a new finding reveals that they are very much real and you can grow some in your home too!
Physicists at Yale University have spotted the signs of a time crystal in a very common crystal that can be grown in children’s crystal-growing kits. Before we move ahead, let’s back up and talk about time crystals.
What is a time crystal?
Time crystal is a recent discovery that was made in 2016. A regular crystal is made up of atoms that form a repeating pattern in space which is repeated over time too. It means that the pattern remains same even if you inspect them after every few seconds or minutes.
But time crystals are different in this regard. In spite of being arranged in a repeating pattern, the atoms in a time crystal can rotate in one direction or the other if an electromagnetic pulse is applied to them – this phenomenon has been termed as “ticking.” The result of which is their structure changes with time but the ticking remains locked at a particular frequency.
Time crystal found in monoammonium phosphate compound
Until now, it was believed that time crystals could only be formed within crystals that have more ‘internal disorder’ between their atoms. But a nuclear magnetic resonance of monoammonium phosphate crystal quickly gave the signs of what they were looking for.
“Our crystal measurements looked quite striking right off the bat,” says Sean Barrett, lead investigator on the research. “Our work suggests that the signature of a discrete time crystal (DTC) could be found, in principle, by looking in a children’s crystal growing kit.”
MAP crystals are quite easy to grow which is why they are included in crystal growing kits for kids. However, scientists are now scratching their heads as they didn’t expect to find this elusive little DTC in such an unusual place – raising questions about how time crystals even form in the first place.
More research is needed to solve the new puzzles created by the recent findings. But scientists believe that a deeper understanding of time crystals could expedite the development of quantum computing technologies and serve as a new basis for super-accurate atomic clocks, magnetometers, and gyroscopes.