Physicists Find Elusive Time Crystal In A Child’s Toy


Physicists uncover hints of time crystal in children's toys that are sold online. The discovery adds more questions on how time crystals are exactly formed.

Crystals such as salt or quartz contain atoms that are arranged in a repeating process.

Time crystals, on the other hand, contain atoms that would only spin in different directions when there is a pulsating force that compelled them. More puzzling is that the compelling force or the ticking of atoms in a time crystal happens at a particular frequency or what is known as the quantum memory.

Time crystal was first identified as a new form of matter in 2016. However, its actual formation remains elusive up to now.

Hints Of Time Crystal

The study, performed by a team of physicists from Yale University, uncovered an obvious sign of what they call as a discrete time crystal in a solid or DTC.

Sean Barrett, the principal investigator for the study and professor at Yale, explains that his student had already created crystals called the monoammonium phosphate or MAP.

MAP crystals are practically easy to grow. These are the type of crystals found in children's crystal growing kits that are sold everywhere.

Before their study, the physicists thought that it would be unusual to find time crystal signature, especially DTC, from these kits. It was previously assumed that time crystals only formed in a disorderly manner.

To find the DTC signature from the MAP crystals, the physicists used nuclear magnetic resonance.

"Our work suggests that the signature of a DTC could be found, in principle, by looking in a children's crystal growing kit," says Barrett.

Furthermore, the researchers concluded that DTC signature is not a direct proof of how exactly time crystals use the quantum memory during formation or whether it actually has a quantum memory to begin with.

At this point, their study, which was published in Physical Review Letters and Physical Review B, does not offer a resolution as to how exactly time crystals came to be.

The Toy

The toys at the center of the discovery are accessibly available through various online selling platforms. One toy of such kind allows kids to grow their own crystals in eight colors. This specific toy aims to make chemistry fun and colorful for the kids. It also serves as a STEM learning guide that will teach children the concept of crystal formation while they play at home.

Understanding time crystals will be integral for the improvements in atomic clocks, gyroscopes, and magnetometers, according to experts. It can also help in building quantum technologies in the future. In fact, the U.S. Department of Defense created a program that would raise more funding for studies that will focus on time crystal systems.

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