05/12/2021 at 10:00 CET
Researchers at Stanford University, Google Quantum AI, the Max Planck Institute for Complex Systems Physics, and the University of Oxford created a time crystal using Google’s Sycamore quantum computing hardware.
A temporal crystal is a new phase of matter, predicted in 2012 by the Nobel Prize winner in physics, Frank Wilczek, whose atomic structure is repeated, not only in space, but also in time.
Atoms in crystalline solids, such as diamond, are arranged in an orderly manner in a repeating pattern throughout the space they occupy.
Physicists have been wondering for almost a decade whether there could also be crystalline solids whose atomic structure could also repeat over time: they called this hypothetical structure time crystals.
Related Topic: Time Could Have the Structure of a Crystal
Quantum paradoxIf it existed, the temporal crystal should be able to achieve something paradoxical: to retain the atomic stability typical of crystalline solids, but at the same time periodically change its crystal structure, returning to its initial configuration after this transformation.
This would mean that, while diamonds can be eternal because they keep their atomic structure intact, time crystals would change forever, with no additional energy input, like a watch that runs forever without batteries.
They would be like some kind of Perpetual motion machine which benefits from the principle of conservation of energy, but which at the same time violates the Second principle of thermodynamics, according to which energy is neither created nor destroyed: it is simply transformed.
Quantum time crystal
Quantum time crystalNew research has discovered that this surprising phase of matter, different from solid, liquid, gas and plasma phases, really exist.
It is also different from Bose-Einstein condensate, another state of matter obtained when certain materials reach temperatures close to absolute zero: at this point, their atoms become a single entity with quantum properties.
Confirmation of the temporal crystals was obtained using a quantum computer, resulting in a long process of previous investigations that paved the way for the discovery now made.
For some reason, Wilczek called this phase he imagined quantum time crystal: it required Google’s Sycamore processor, capable of performing in just 200 seconds a task that the world’s fastest supercomputer would need. of 10,000 years, to confirm its existence.
Quantum labTo achieve this, the researchers conducted a series of “experiments” treating this quantum computer as a laboratory to test whether the proposed time crystal met certain requirements.
The result obtained is the first to verify experimentally that a phase of matter can exist outside of thermal equilibrium, underlines Physic World.
This magazine also points out that this is the first time that all the requirements for a phase of material imbalance have been rigorously verified.
There is another no less relevant indirect result of this research: that even Intermediate Scale Quantum Processors (NISQs), such as Sycamore, have important implications for our understanding of physics.
New opportunitiesThis means that this research lays the fundamental foundation for the use of NISQ devices in the study of imbalance phenomena, according to the scientists.
The researchers stress in this regard in a statement that the importance of their discovery lies not only in creating a new phase of matter, but also in opening up opportunities to explore new regimes in the field of condensed matter physics. , which studies the macroscopic physical characteristics of matter.
They add that the Sycamore results provide a practical benchmark for other experiments based on quantum processors combined with classical computing.
Model for the future
Model for the futureThey consider that they have only studied a small corner of possible physics so far, and that quantum processors allow entirely new physical regimes to be accessible and relevant. They add that their work should serve as a model for these future explorations.
They conclude that quantum computing is configured as the necessary platform for the development of fundamental physics, potentially capable of discovering phenomena that have not even been imagined yet.
The lead author of this research, Vedika Khemani, Assistant Professor of Physics at Stanford University, this year received the New Horizons in Physics Prize from the Breakthrough Prize Foundation “for her pioneering theoretical work in formulating new phases of science. quantum matter that are not in equilibrium. , including time crystals. ‘
After verifying the existence of temporal crystals, Khemani considers that âalthough much of our understanding of condensed matter physics is based on equilibrium systems, these new quantum devices offer us a fascinating window on new regimes of non-equilibrium in the physics of many bodies “.
ReferenceCrystalline eigenstate order in time on a quantum processor. Xiao Mi et al. Nature 2021. DOI: https: //doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-04257-w
Top photo: The Google Sycamore chip used to create a time crystal. (Image credit: Google Quantum AI)