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‘Time crystal’ created in lab

Flipped ions return to original positions periodically to demonstrate new form of symmetry breaking

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7:00am, October 26, 2016
crystal structure

TIME CRYSTAL  Crystals can form in time as well as in space, scientists have confirmed. Scientists hit a chain of ions with lasers to create the time crystal, which undergoes symmetry breaking in time, just as a normal crystal (shown above) breaks the symmetry of space.

It may sound like science fiction, but it’s not: Scientists have created the first time crystal, using a chain of ions. Just as a standard crystal repeats in a regular spatial pattern, a time crystal repeats in time, returning to a similar configuration at regular intervals.

“This is a remarkable experiment,” says physicist Chetan Nayak of Microsoft Station Q at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “There is a ‘wow factor.’”

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