Time crystals might actually exist, an Aalto University study has claimed.
A time crystal is a structure that does not repeat in space, like normal three-dimensional crystals, such as snowflakes or diamonds, but in time. In practice this means that crystals constantly undergo spontaneous change, breaking the symmetry of time by achieving a self-sustaining oscillation.
The real value is apparently in the time crystal's coherency, allowing temporal and spatial consistency, amounting to longevity that has never before been thought possible.
Until now, there has been little experimental evidence of the phenomenon, with physicists around the world racing to determine if - and how - these unique structures could be observed.
However, the Finnish university claims it has new evidence that these marvels might actually physically exist.
"Nature has given us a system that wants to be coherent over time," said senior scientist Vladimir Eltsov, leader of the ROTA research group at Aalto University.
"The system spontaneously begins to evolve in time coherently, over long periods of time, even infinitely long."
With more understanding, it's hoped time crystals may one day be used to pave the way for real-world applications such as quantum information processing devices, but they struggle with sources resistant to decay.
"There has been a lot of theoretical papers, but very few practical realisations. So ours is one of the few, and the first to demonstrate quasi-crystals," added Eltsov.
By understanding the fundamentals of time crystals - as in, when and how they materialise - the researchers hope to be able to harness these principles to develop them within other devices, regardless of environmental factors.
Professor Emeritus Grigori Volovik, another researcher at the university, said the finding, achieved by studying the Bose-Einstein condensation of magnons in superfluid Helium-3, also has implications for other branches of physics.
"Helium-3 is related to practically all branches of physics: gravity, topology, particle physics, cosmology," he explained.
In the future it may even be possible to look at time itself, including the possibility of constructing the boundary between time going forward and back, as theory suggests.
"It is an entire universe of study," Volovik added.
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