Scientists from the University of Granada and the University of Tübingen (Germany) have discovered a way to create time crystals, a new phase of matter that emulates a crystalline structure in the fourth dimension, time, rather than just in space, from extreme fluctuations in many-particle physical systems.

Time crystals are a new state of matter recently proposed by the Nobel laureate in physics Frank Wilczek, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in the United States.

In time crystals – the existence of which was first suggested in 2012 – atoms repeat a pattern through the fourth dimension, time, unlike normal crystals (like a diamond), which have atoms arranged in a repeating spatial structure. Thus, these new temporary crystals are characterized by making a periodic movement in time.

In this work, the UGR researchers demonstrate that certain dynamic phase transitions that appear in the rare fluctuations of many physical systems spontaneously break translational symmetry in the time.

In this way, researcher Rubén Hurtado Gutiérrez, together with professors Carlos Pérez Espigares and Pablo Hurtado, from the Department of Electromagnetism and Matter Physics of the UGR, and in collaboration with professor Federico Carollo, of the UT, have proposed a new way to use this natural phenomenon to create time crystals.

To perform the simulations of this work, scientists have used the supercomputer Proteus, belonging to the Carlos I Institute of Theoretical and Computational Physics of the UGR. It is one of the most powerful general scientific calculation supercomputers in Spain, with a calculation capacity of more than 90TeraFlops that reaches thanks to its more than 2300 processing cores, 7.5 Terabytes of RAM and 380TeraBytes of data storage.

In His article, UGR scientists propose a path unexplored so far to construct time crystals, based on the recent observation of spontaneous breaking of time translational symmetry in fluctuations of many-particle systems.

These dynamic phase transitions appear in the trajectory space, when a physical system is conditioned to make a rare (or improbable) fluctuation of certain observables, such as the stream of particles.

Using spectral analysis tools, scientists have unequivocally demonstrated the relationship between these and time crystals. Interestingly, these rare events can be made typical by a transformation of the microscopic dynamics of the particles, which can be interpreted in terms of the original dynamics supplemented by an intelligent external field.

This allows this previously highly unlikely temporary crystal behavior to be used in a practical way.

Based on these observations, the researchers have proposed an out-of-equilibrium fluid model that exhibits a time crystal type phase transition, which breaks temporal translation symmetry and exhibits rigidity, robust coherent periodic motion, and long-range spatio-temporal order.

This paper also discusses how to create these time crystals in the lab from colloidal fluids in optical traps and under external packing fields generated with optical tweezers.

According to the researchers, these results are relevant “in fields such as metrology, for the design of clocks more precise, or in quantum computing, where time crystals can be used to simulate fundamental states or design quantum computers that are more robust to decoherence, with the technological possibilities that this entails “.