‘Impossible’ time crystal system could hide the secret of quantum computing revolution

In an experiment seemingly defying the laws of physics, scientists have created the first two-body crystal system — and it could have some startling implications for the future of quantum computing.

In a paper published today in the magazine Nature CommunicationsIn this study, researchers from the United Kingdom, Russia and Finland described how they formed two time crystals inside a superfluid — in this case, a rare isotope of helium, cooled to about one ten thousandth of a degree from absolute zero — and brought them together to touch each other, creating an infinitely conjugated system. It is based on classical physics, rather on quantum rules.

“It turns out that putting the two of them together works beautifully,” explained EPSRC Fellow Dr Samuli Autti, lead author of the study. “Even if time crystals didn’t exist in the first place.”

Time crystals can seem like something out of scope Indiana Jones movie, but they’re actually so much more awesome than that. It’s one of those strange quantum phenomena that has baffled scientists a bit – its existence has only been suggested In 2012And for a long time it was supposed to be purely theoretical.

Imagine the collective surprise of the scientific community, then, when two separate research teams announced the discovery of some realistic time crystals Back in 2017. Since then, mysterious little things have appeared everywhere – from Latest quantum computers to me Kids daily game.

But what exactly? be time crystals? Depending on how you think about it, it either looks exactly as it does, or nothing like that at all. See, an ordinary, timeless crystal – something like an emerald or a snowflake – is defined by its regular, repeating atomic structure. Diamonds, for example, look like this under the microscope:

Image credit: posmguys / Shutterstock.com

It’s very symmetrical – no matter where you are in the structure space, the pattern will be identical. Time crystals are the same – except that the structure does not repeat in space, but in time.

This is how time crystals are understood where their name makes perfect sense: they are the time counterpart of an ordinary crystal. The slightly more confusing aspect comes when you try to imagine what that looks like in reality.

“Suppose you take pictures of a planet and the moon that orbits it every time it finishes its orbit during a period of time with the Hubble telescope,” explained Google Quantum AI researchers Pedram Roshan and Costantin Kishidji, who were not involved in the research. “All of these images will look the same as the moon repeats its orbit over and over again.”

But “what if there was a planet system and many moons where the moons could repeat their orbits periodically, without increasing entropy?” Keep going. “This formation – obviously difficult to achieve – would be considered a time crystal.”

In other words, a time crystal isn’t a crystal at all—at least, not how we’re used to thinking about it. It is a new phase of matter, simultaneously stable and in constant evolution at the same time, and always returning to the same pattern periodically.

And this… it shouldn’t make sense. “Everyone knows that Perpetual motion machines are impossibleOoty said. “However, in quantum physics, perpetual motion is fine as long as we close our eyes.”

“By slipping through that crack, we can make time crystals,” he explained.

But creating a two-body time system is more than a way to cheat the laws of physics. The basic building block of a quantum computer – at scale The next big jump In arithmetic – it is something called a “two-level system”: a quantum system that exists in a superposition of two independent quantum states. And that’s exactly what the researchers found: “In our experiments, two closely spaced time crystals composed of spin wave quasiparticles … form a system with two macroscopic levels,” the paper explains.

“The two levels evolve over time as determined intrinsically by nonlinear feedback, allowing us to construct automatic two-level dynamics,” the authors continue. “[The] Magnon time crystals allow access to every aspect and detail of quantum coherent interactions in a single round of experiment.”

This opens up some exciting possibilities for the future. In general, quantum computers rely on extremely cold temperatures – like those at Google, for example Keep less than 50 mKwhich is colder than coldest place in the universe.

But “we already know [time crystals] “It also exists at room temperature” — so discovering this two-body system may provide a way to make quantum computers that can operate without supercooling, Otti said.

And this… will be Very exciting.