Exploring the Possibilities of Time Crystals: Unlocking a New Phase of Matter

Time crystals: The search for a brand new phase of matter

Pedram Roushan from Google’s Quantum AI in California describes this elusive matter – as well as how it can be simulated using the company’s Sycamore Quantum processor.

Crystalline solids have fascinated us with their beauty for centuries. Crystals are composed of molecules or atoms that are arranged regularly in space. They can range from diamonds to snowflakes. The quantum theory of solids was developed from the insights gained by crystals. The crystals also provided a framework to understand other spatially-ordered phases such as liquid crystals, superconductors and ferromagnets.

Another ubiquitous phenomenon is periodic oscillations. These oscillations can be seen at any scale, from atomic to planet orbits. We used them for many years to measure the passing of time and even pondered the possibility of perpetual movement. These periodic patterns, whether in space or time, lead to reduced symmetries. Without periodicity, no position in time or space can be distinguished from another. Periodicity disrupts the translational symmetry in space or time.


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