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The enigma of time crystals

According to, “Time crystals [are] systems of atoms that maintain a periodic ticking behavior in the presence of an added electromagnetic pulse, […]”. If studied correctly, time crystals can be used for quantum technologies.

Time crystals are found in fertilizers and in an unlikely place — crystal growing kits for children. Even to this day, scientists are still at a loss on how time crystals are formed. However, they do know it is compound of monoammonium phosphate.

Time crystals were first theorized in 2012 and barely identified in 2016. According to, “their atoms are actually oscillating — spinning first in one direction, and then the other, when exposed to an electromagnetic pulse that flips the spin.” If viewed normally, the time crystals are just like any other crystal.

Harvard physicists were able to to create a time crystal from a nitrogen-vacancy diamond. The first experiment was done by the University of Maryland in finding the time crystals behavior with a line of ytterbium atoms. “The new time crystal found at Yale, although inspired by these experiments, is different yet again from those first two discoveries.” Science alert also found that Yale has built other experiments to find more out about time crystals.

According to, “Time crystals have been likened to weird jiggling Jell-O. You start shaking it, but the gelatin oscillates with a frequency that doesn’t correspond to your movements.” The source says that crystal has to have a specific frequency to oscillate.

“Now it looks like time crystals are the first example of the hypothesized but unstudied ‘non-equilibrium’ state of matter, […].” Another article from Science Alert is different from scientists that have previously studied metals and insulators that are in equilibrium.

Time crystals were first theorised by Nobel-Prize winning theoretical physicist Frank Wilczek. His theory was “time crystals are hypothetical structures that appear to have movement even at their lowest energy state, known as a ground state.” A ground state is where there should be no movement at all, but he theorized that time crystals did have some movement.

Some may wonder, what is the importance of a time crystal? Time crystals allow scientists to understanding non-equilibrium quantum states. According to, “But while understanding such non-equilibrium systems could help lead researchers down the path to quantum computing, the technology behind time crystals may also have more near-term applications as well.” An example of other applications from the source is possibly a magnetic field sensor.

Isha Tripathi, sophomore, said, “I don’t know much about what exactly a time crystal is, but I am intrigued because it is not in equilibrium, which most matter is.” She would like to know more about how it works and what exactly it could be used for.

Scientists are still studying time crystals and finding new information about them. They could possibly open up the door to new quantum inventions and possibly more discoveries of new matter and non-equilibrium matter, too.

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