An international team of researchers has announced that they have successfully combined two time crystals. A breakthrough that opens new avenues for the development of quantum computers.
Using quantum mechanics to make the impossible possible
The possibility of building a perpetual motion machine that continues to work without an external source of energy is a famous scientific hypothesis. To make the impossible possible, researchers turn to the strange world of quantum mechanics, the laws of the infinitesimal.
Time crystals, a strange phase of matter, were originally theorized by the Nobel Prize winner in 2012 Frank Wilczek. First obtained in the laboratory in 2016, these could recently be produced at room temperature.
While the atoms that make up their common counterparts (such as quartz or diamond) are organized as a fixed three-dimensional lattice, with crystal patterns repeating only in space, the state of these particles oscillates periodically in time crystals, whose structure is therefore repeated in both space and Time. This creates a perpetuum mobile.
As part of the work described in the journal nature communicationBritish, Russian and Finnish researchers have succeeded in coupling for the first time two time crystals composed of quasi-particles called ” magnons » and form a single macroscopic system with two levels.
A two-stage macroscopic system
Spatially separated, the two time crystals arose as condensates of Bose Einstein. These groups of particles behave essentially as a single atom at ultra-low temperatures, revealing the strange quantum effects on the macroscale.
In this case, the researchers cooled helium-3 (a rare isotope of helium that lacks a neutron) to -273.15 °C, just a ten-thousandth of a degree above absolute zero. At this temperature, helium-3 forms a superfluid, i.e. a liquid with zero viscosity. The two crystals were then brought together so they could interact.
With a two-tier system forming the building block of a quantum computer, the study’s authors believe the new work opens up the possibility of using these strange crystals as quantum bits, or qubits.