features - time crystals - nj
Time Crystals, a New Phase of Matter, Opens Up Exciting Possibilities

by Honora Johnston

What if there was a completely new phase of matter, with unknown and physics-breaking properties? There is a new crystal- a time crystal- that has been created in the lab. These time crystals, however, are much different than you expect.

Time crystals are a recent discovery in the science community. It was originally theorized in 2012 by Frank Wilczek, but was only created for the first time in March of this year. Two groups of researchers, one from Harvard and one from University of Maryland, were able to create these crystals in a laboratory setting. Crystals are defined by their repeating patterns of formation, which lead to the name of time crystals. They have repeating patterns of flipping in time. Because they were just created this year, not much is known about them yet. [1]

“They are diamonds covered in nitrogen pockets,” said junior Zander Horstman, “and using microwaves, you can change the orientation. They run a system not in equilibrium.” When asked what these objects may be used for, Horstman replied, “Essentially, they’re gonna be used in quantum computing.” Quantum computing is much quicker than regular computers in our smartphones, laptops, tablets and other technology. [2]

“It’s very confusing, but interesting. The concept sounds crazy, but I could see it being used in the near future,” commented junior Alejandro Taboada.

“If we don’t currently have a way to explain the scientific phenomenon, then maybe it is something entirely new,” said junior Shayna Moleson. Current explanations of how these time crystals work are too confusing and not enough is known about them to really be sure. For students, it may be a while before these concepts make it to the classroom, since they are so strange.

Time crystals are a new discovery that we do not yet know all the details of, but they may be extremely important for the future of technology and engineering.