Observation of a discrete time crystal
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CitationHess, P.W., J. Zhang, A. Kyprianidis, P. Becker, A. Lee, J. Smith, G. Pagano et al. "Observation of a discrete time crystal." Nature 543, no. 7644 (2017): 217-220. DOI: 10.1038/nature21413
AbstractSpontaneous symmetry breaking is a fundamental concept in many areas of physics, ranging from cosmology and particle physics to condensed matter1. A prime example is the breaking of spatial translation symmetry, which underlies the formation of crystals and the phase transition from liquid to solid. Analogous to crystals in space, the breaking of translation symmetry in time and the emergence of a “time crystal” was recently proposed2,3, but later shown to be forbidden in thermal equilibrium4–6. However, nonequilibrium Floquet systems subject to a periodic drive can exhibit persistent time-correlations at an emergent sub-harmonic frequency7–10. This new phase of matter has been dubbed a “discrete time crystal” (DTC)10 (This phase is also referred to as a π-spin glass7 or a Floquet time crystal8). Here, we present the first experimental observation of a discrete time crystal, in an interacting spin chain of trapped atomic ions. We apply a periodic Hamiltonian to the system under many-body localization (MBL) conditions, and observe a sub-harmonic temporal response that is robust to external perturbations. Such a time crystal opens the door for studying systems with long-range spatial-temporal correlations and novel phases of matter that emerge under intrinsically non-equilibrium conditions7.
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