This device could deliver groundbreaking insight into physics and will be able to keep the correct time until after the universe dies.
The projected crystal will be a 4D construct that is characterized by a periodic structure in time as well as space. If built, scientists hope they will be able to study the properties and behaviors during interactions of large numbers of particles, which is commonly known as the many-body problem in physics. There is also the vision that a space time crystal would be useful to dive deeper into quantum physics, including particle entanglement over close and far distances.
Xiang Zhang, a faculty scientistwith Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division who led the space time crystal research, explained that "the electric field of an ion trap holds charged particles in place and Coulomb repulsion causes them to spontaneously form a spatial ring crystal". He added: "Under the application of a weak static magnetic field, this ring-shaped ion crystal will begin a rotation that will never stop. The persistent rotation of trapped ions produces temporal order, leading to the formation of a space-time crystal at the lowest quantum energy state."
Since this crystal is already at its lowest quantum energy state, its time keeping will persist for eternity even until the universe reaches its "heat-death", the scientists said. Despite its continued motion, the scientists said that the crystal would not represent a perpetuum mobile as the structures does not deliver energy.
According to Zhang, the "main challenge" in creating the crystal "will be to cool an ion ring to its ground state." He believes that this will be possible "in the near future with the development of ion trap technologies."