Time Crystals in Space
A space-time crystal is a structure that repeats in time, as well as in space. Normal three-dimensional crystals have a repeating pattern in space, but remain unchanged as time passes. Time crystals repeat themselves in time as well, leading the crystal to change from moment to moment. This allows them to maintain constant oscillation without energy. The idea of a quantum time crystal was first described by Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek in 2012.
The experiment involved blasting pulses of light at a bismuth-based compound, split up into 100-nanometre samples with simple Scotch tape. By adding spectroscopy analysis as well, the scientists could monitor electrons within the material in response to laser light.
By using ultrafast electron diffraction and photoemission spectroscopy techniques, the team was able to observe changes in the energy and momentum of electrons passing through the metal. They were also able to track down transitions in the metal at the atomic level.
Potential of the Discovery Ahead
Senior researcher Yimei Zhu, from the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York says “This breakthrough offers direct, fundamental insight into the puzzling characteristics of these remarkable materials.” The underlying science of being able to manipulate energy through superconductors is complex, due to the delicate dynamics and subatomic scales involved, but the new research observed superconductivity at a level of precision that wasn’t seen before. This opens up the possibility of gadgets that work faster, last longer, and are many times more powerful than we’re used to.