Bending the Laws of Physics: Time Crystals “Impossible” but Obey Quantum Physics

In a new experiment, scientists created two time crystals inside the superfluid, and brought them to touch.

Time crystals were long believed to be impossible because their perpetual motion would seem to defy the laws of physics. However, using quantum physics scientists have not only created time crystals, but they have also now shown that they have the potential to power useful devices in the future.

Scientists have created the first ”time-crystal” two-body system in an experiment that seems to bend the laws of physics.

It comes after the same team recently witnessed the first interaction of the new phase of matter.

“Everybody knows that perpetual motion machines are impossible. However, in quantum physics perpetual motion is okay as long as we keep our eyes closed. By sneaking through this crack we can make time crystals.” — Dr. Samuli Autti

Time crystals were long believed to be impossible because they are made from atoms in never-ending motion. The discovery, published today (June 2, 2022) in the journal Nature Communications, shows that not only can time crystals be created, but they have the potential to be turned into useful devices.

Time crystals are different from a standard crystal – like metals or rocks — which is composed of atoms arranged in a regularly repeating pattern in space.

First theorized in 2012 by Nobel Laureate Frank Wilczek and identified in 2016, time crystals exhibit the bizarre property of being in constant, repeating motion in time despite no external input. Their atoms are constantly oscillating, spinning, or moving first in one direction, and then the other.

Researchers cooled superfluid helium-3 to near absolute zero (minus 273.15°C) inside this rotating refrigerator, where two time crystals were created and brought into touch. Credit: © Aalto University/Mikko Raskinen

EPSRC Fellow Dr. Samuli Autti, lead author from Lancaster University’s Department of Physics, explained: “Everybody knows that perpetual motion machines are impossible. However, in quantum physics perpetual motion is okay as long as we keep our eyes closed. By sneaking through this crack we can make time crystals.”

“It turns out putting two of them together works beautifully, even if time crystals should not exist in the first place. And we already know they also exist at room temperature.”

A ”two-level system” is a basic building block of a quantum computer. Time crystals could be used to build quantum devices that work at room temperature.

An international team of researchers from Lancaster University, Royal Holloway London, Landau Institute, and Aalto University in Helsinki observed time crystals by using Helium-3 which is a rare isotope of helium with one missing neutron. The experiment was carried out at Aalto University.

They cooled superfluid helium-3 to about one ten thousandth of a degree from absolute zero (0.0001K or -273.15°C). The researchers created two time crystals inside the superfluid, and brought them to touch. The scientists then watched the two time crystals interacting as described by quantum physics.

Reference: “Nonlinear two-level dynamics of quantum time crystals” by S. Autti, P. J. Heikkinen, J. Nissinen, J. T. Mäkinen, G. E. Volovik, V. V. Zavyalov and V. B. Eltsov, 2 June 2022, Nature Communications.
DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-30783-w

CrystalsLancaster UniversityMaterials ScienceNeutronsPopularQuantum Physics
Comments ( 13 )
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  • david w. ferrin

    the person that wrote this said absolutely nothing at all, after reading the above I learned nothing new at all…

  • Will

    Anymore information on this experiment and how it works. I’m loving this

  • Gamma

    Could it be done with other superfluids?

  • Min chul lee

    In condensed matter physics, a time crystal is a quantum system of particles whose lowest-energy state is one in which the particles are in repetitive motion. The system cannot lose energy to the environment and come to rest because it is already in its quantum ground state. Because of this, the motion of the particles does not really represent kinetic energy like other motion, it has “motion without energy”…LoL what’s next. Are we going to say all these dark matter out there exists hidden from us, and because we imagine/sense things they materialise themselves? All too philosophical for modern science.

  • Anarchord

    Thanks for the link ReadMore. Much appreciated.

  • Osama

    You wasted my time on 1 or two new and useful informations

    This article is so long for the actual useful conten it provides

  • Austin

    People also thought we could sail off the edge of the earth. We still know so little, yet we’ve acquired a superego.

  • Johnathen

    Just a theory, could you use irradiated mercury and a quantum pattern magnetic field using the irradiated isotope of the mercury to stabilize the state increasing the time and consistency of the time crystal? This would act like a Barrier against gaining the neutron that disrupts the quantum state. Helium 3 may need to be introduced in sequential timing to maintain temperature. Just a theory….

  • Jean-Yves BOULAY

    maybe something to do with this: The graphic charting of atomic orbitals into the form of chevrons suggests the existence of stealth orbitals occupying the quantum vacant space of the various electronic shells. It is proposed here, the hypothesis that these quantum gates allow transit of electrons from orbital to another, and that these gates can be accesses to quantum singularities without space-time. Singular arithmetic arrangements in the distribution of real and stealthy orbitals of certain genetic code components reinforces the hypothesis to existence of these quantum gates.
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/356420393_Stealthy_orbitals_hypothesis

  • Nikola Milovic

    WHAT DO THESE SCIENTIFIC VAGABUNDS WANT TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS?
    Everything in the universe from particles to clusters of galaxies is perpetual motion. How these experts do not know how and for how long the planets rotate around the sun. How does an electron orbit the nucleus?
    THEY, WITH THEIR FATAMORGANS, INTEND TO DECEIVE THE PUBLIC AND SHOW HOW THEY HAVE REACHED SOME FINDINGS FROM WHICH THEY WILL HAVE SOME PROFIT!
    NONE OF THESE !!

  • Julio A. Bello

    Somebody KINDLY resolve the apparent “layman” contradiction without being condescending. Dr. Samuli Autti explained: “Everybody knows that perpetual motion machines are impossible. However, in quantum physics perpetual motion is okay AS LONG AS WE KEEP OUR EYES CLOSED (emphasis added). By sneaking through this crack we can make time crystals.” I understand the “measurement problem” concept. I am familiar with the Copenhagen interpretation (and perhaps there are other more modern interpretations that I am not aware of). Apparently, we can “blindly” create these time crystals under special laboratory conditions (i.e., They cooled superfluid helium-3 to about one ten thousandth of a degree from absolute zero). We can create TWO of them under said conditions and “blindly” have them touch (The researchers created two time crystals inside the superfluid, and brought them to touch). And now for the apparent “layman” contradiction: The scientists then WATCHED (emphasis added) the two time crystals interacting as described by quantum physics. OK… How were they able to OBSERVE the phenomenon without measurements?