(LiveScience) Researchers working in partnership with Google may have just used the tech giant’s quantum computer to create a completely new phase of matter — a time crystal.
With the ability to forever cycle between two states without ever losing energy, time crystals dodge one of the most important laws of physics — the second law of thermodynamics, which states that the disorder, or entropy, of an isolated system must always increase. These bizarre time crystals remain stable, resisting any dissolution into randomness, despite existing in a constant state of flux.
According to a research article posted July 28 to the preprint database arXiv, scientists were able to create the time crystal for roughly 100 seconds using qubits (quantum computing’s version of the traditional computer bit) inside the core of Google’s Sycamore quantum processor.
he existence of this weird new matter phase, and the entirely new realm of physical behaviors it reveals, is incredibly exciting to physicists, especially as time crystals were only first predicted to exist just nine years ago.
“This was a big surprise,” Curt von Keyserlingk, a physicist at the University of Birmingham in the U.K. who was not involved in the study, told Live Science. “If you asked someone 30, 20 or maybe even 10 years ago, they would not have expected this.”
Time crystals are fascinating objects to physicists because they essentially sidestep the second law of thermodynamics, one of the most ironclad laws in physics. It states that entropy (a rough analog for the amount of disorder in a system) always increases. If you want to make something more ordered, you need to put more energy into it.