Physics News: Time Crystals Discovered! Want to grow your own?

I want to thank the amazing work done here by Yale physicists Jared Rovny, Robert L. Blum, and Sean E. Barrett, the recent authors in Physical Review B (PhysRevB.97.184301). They experimented with crystals and found these awesome properties!

Time crystals, or more specifically discrete time crystals (DTC), have a similar kind of repetitive structure in time that crystals have on the atomic level in space. Those structures are viewed as a basic unit cell to describe how that cell repeats. From these structures it is possible for physicists to discover a wide array of amazing things such things as conductivity, band gap structures, and other kinds of fascinating properties!

The kinds of crystals Rovny et. al. worked with, known as ammonia dihydrogen phostphate or monoammonium phosphate, is a crystal that is easily grown at home. In fact, Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. has already written a fantastic article on how to! These crystals are simple to grow and their ingredients come in many children’s science kits and fertilizers!

If you want to better understand any crystal, you can view their molecular structures and some of their properties in many .cif files (Crystallographic Information File), many of which are located via the Materials Project. Our particular crystal can be viewed right here! These files are fantastic in the amazing amount of information that they are able to provide and their 3-D manipulable models for almost any molecular structure.

To test the time structure the physicists devised experiments involving Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) to watch as the electrons flipped their spins with discrete spacing in time, or for a specific frequency. These equally spaced structures in time allow us to describe a 4-D repetitive structure, also know as a driven type of time crystal!


A simple cubic, body centered cubic, and face centered cubic. These are the only kinds of Bravais lattice structures that can exist. Image source: SC BCC FCC – Wikimedia Commons

So that is a lot of science to unpack! These are some of the interesting physics surrounding some of the modern discoveries in solid state physics! Have questions? Want to know more about a particular part or type of some crystal? Then leave a comment here or reach out to me at! Also, be sure to watch out for future updates coming in my Physics of Crystals series! I will continue to describe the many different kinds of crystal lattice structures and give even more awesome details about some of the fascinating properties that exist in solid state physics: the physics of crystals.

Until next time,

Josh Lofy

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