The concept of time crystals, first proposed by Nobel Prize winner Frank Wilczek in 2012, has been a topic of heated debate in the scientific community. While some believed that time crystals were impossible in principle, others sought to find ways to realize them under specific conditions. Recently, a team at Tsinghua University in China, with the support of TU Wien in Austria, successfully created a unique form of time crystal using laser light and Rydberg atoms.

A crystal is defined as an arrangement of atoms that repeats itself in space with regular intervals. Wilczek’s idea of a time crystal involves an object that repeats itself not in space but in time. The periodicity of a time crystal emerges spontaneously, without a specific rhythm being imposed on the system and the interaction between particles being independent of time. This phenomenon, known as spontaneous symmetry breaking, results in a predetermined tick frequency with random occurrences.

In the experiment conducted at Tsinghua University, laser light was shone into a glass container filled with a gas of rubidium atoms. The strength of the light signal that reached the other end of the container was measured. By preparing the atoms in Rydberg states, where the atoms have a giant electron shell, the interactions between atoms were significantly enhanced. This allowed for the generation of feedback loops that resulted in spontaneous oscillations between atomic states and oscillating light absorption.

The creation of a time crystal using Rydberg atoms has provided a powerful platform for deepening our understanding of this phenomenon. The rhythmic behavior exhibited by the giant atoms can have potential applications in sensors and other technological advancements. This breakthrough brings us closer to realizing Frank Wilczek’s original idea of time crystals and opens up new possibilities for further research in the field of physics.

The successful creation of a time crystal at Tsinghua University marks a significant achievement in the field of physics. By utilizing laser light and Rydberg atoms, researchers have been able to demonstrate the emergence of spontaneous periodicity in time, as predicted by Wilczek’s theory. This groundbreaking discovery paves the way for future exploration of time crystals and their potential applications in various scientific and technological fields.


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