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Time Crystals and Quasicrystals Long Thought Impossible Change Everything

Crystals, Time Crystals, Quasicrystals

Time crystals could soon be used as memory storage for quantum computers, but until recently, they were thought impossible. Meanwhile, quasicrystals, also though impossible, are being used in all kinds of applications with endless potential.

Pending peer review, time crystals are here, considered a possible new phase of matter created using the quantum computers they might one day be inseparable from. According to Popular Science, researchers have been creating time crystals for several years, and physicists are “obsessed.”

While inert crystals like quartz have a repeating structure in space that remains unchanged in time, time crystals have a structure that repeats or oscillates in time. Thus, they technically exist in 4D.

Atoms in the structure continue to move indefinitely at the same rate. They don’t follow “time symmetry,” the rule that a “stable object will remain the same throughout time.” 

Princeton University compared it to the regular timing of the seasons:

 “This repetition is a bit like the earth’s seasons, which appear like clockwork once a year.”

It’s not known if time crystals exist in nature, but it’s possible.

(Image by Emily Edwards, University of Maryland) via

Time Crystals Have Perpetual Motion

According to NBC News, time crystals have the long-saught-after property of perpetual motion.

“Time crystals are among the many strange features of quantum physics. In normal crystals like ice, quartz or diamond, atoms are aligned in a particular physical position — a tiny effect that leads to their distinctive regular shapes at larger scales. 

But the particles in a time crystal exist in one of two different low-energy states depending on just when you look at them — that is, their position in time. That results in a regular oscillation that continues forever, a true type of perpetual motion,” reported NBC.

If perpetual motion is here, doesn’t that mean a form of free energy is here?

Crystals by rws1st via Pixabay

Time Crystals Defy Physics

Although they may already have a real-world application, time crystals don’t align with the world as known by scientists thus far. They reject the laws of physics. The crystalline structure remains in perpetual motion without taking in or losing energy, which defies the law of entropy. Thus, it’s “like a clock that runs forever without any batteries.” 

The first law of thermodynamics states energy is always conserved. It’s why it’s considered impossible to build perpetual motion machines which could deliver free energy. Before this concept of time crystals, scientists thought it would only be possible in a vacuum, without any friction, loss of heat, or sound that would cause it to lose energy. If perpetual motion were possible, it could only be used as energy storage. 

Now, we’re at the moment where scientists have confirmed the universe isn’t locally real; traversable wormholes, flying Tic Tacs, and time crystals, previously just an idea from Doctor Who, are possible. It’s a new age where it seems anything is possible. Of course, scientists aren’t suggesting using time crystals to travel in time as with the Doctor Who series, but then again, Who knows? Rather, the practical use for time crystals may be as memory storage inside quantum computers. 

Sidenote: Everyone has magnetite crystals in their brains, and scientists aren’t sure why. Possibly, it’s due to air pollution. Still, other crystals, such as two different crystalline compounds in the pineal gland, are thought to be biologically significant.

Below, you can see Frank Wilczek, the Nobel laureate, discuss time crystals, which he introduced in 2012.

Video by DW News:

How They Created Time Crystals

Below are a couple of the ways that scientists created time crystals.

Created Inside Diamonds

A previous attempt to create time crystals made the news in 2017. In that case, scientists used a diamond with defects inside where nitrogen atoms replaced the carbon in the lattice. When they focused microwave radiation on the diamond impurities, a million nitrogen atoms spun, cycling between states without losing energy. Thus it became a “time crystal within a space crystal.” 

Created with a Quantum Computer

In the latest effort, researchers used a Google quantum computer processor and arranged individual atoms. But, this method allowed them to build the biggest time crystal to date. Then, they shoot a laser pulse at the crystal, and a time crystal is born. It sounds like science fiction.


Arranging circuits at the atomic scale like natural molecules in nature recently led to a breakthrough in quantum computing. More on that here.

Unlike previous attempts, which lasted temporarily, these time crystals appear stable, staying in equilibrium despite seemingly defying the laws of physics. Thus, time crystals may solve the requirement for stable memory inside quantum computers.

Video with many more details by Seeker:

Another ‘Impossible’ Crystal

Recently, another crystal, long thought impossible, was in the news. It was a sample of red trinitite containing a quasicrystal discovered at the site of the first nuclear bomb detonation – the 1945 Trinity test.

Unlike most crystals, the atomic structure of the quasicrystal doesn’t repeat regularly. While most crystals grow by interacting with nearby atoms, quasicrystal atoms somehow interact with atoms further away. They bypass the neighboring atoms.

Image credit:  @TrinititeMan On Twitter.

How does this happen? Are the atoms exhibiting quantum interactions? It’s one idea from English mathematician and physicist Roger Penrose in 2014. 

Featured image: Penrose tiles via Wikipedia, Public domain with Islamic tiles by Ian Alexander 

The Golden Ratio

Research by Glotzer and Engels at the University of Michigan showed something amazing. The arrangement follows the Golden Ratio, similar to the Fibonacci Sequence, predated by Indian mathematics.

“…The end product showed long-range order, the particles only interacted with those up to three particle-distances away. When the researchers looked closer, they found that the Golden Ratio governed those interactions. The Golden Ratio, which is about 1.61, is a mathematically and artistically important number that was first studied by the ancient Greeks. It’s related to the Fibonacci Sequence – the simple progression of numbers beginning with 0 and 1 in which the next number is the sum of the previous two – so 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, etc. It’s visible in the arrangement of petals in flowers, seeds in a pinecone, branches in trees and spirals of nautilus shells, for example.”

Related: Researchers Suggest They Found ‘New Law of Nature’ in Symmetry, Or Did They?

As with the time crystals “kicked” with a laser, the atoms of quasicrystals seem to change after exposure to extreme forces.

The result is a fractal structure like Islamic or Penrose tiles.

Quasicrystal images by Materialscientist and Jgmoxness via WikipediaCC BY-SA 3.0

Quasicrystal Applications

Quasicrystals are known to have been created in nature under extreme conditions, including inside meteorites. For decades, scientists thought quasicrystals were quasi-science, but they eventually proved real. Dan Shechtman won a Nobel Prize in 2011 for his work with quasicrystals despite being ridiculed by the scientific establishment for years.

They’re used in LED lights, non-stick frying pans, surgical instruments, 3D printing, and for strengthening metal alloys. Quasicrystals may lead to invisibility camouflage. and shape-shifting robots. But the list of applications may only be beginning. New properties are being found, such as capturing light and creating an afterglow. They can “trap and route light coming from all directions” thanks to how the atoms are arranged.

See more about the quasicrystals below.

Video by Veritasium:

Featured image by Facusio via Pixabay combined with image by Dieter_G 

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