Time crystal, a new quantum state of matter – Journal cover art

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Nowadays, quantum computers aren’t yet capable of carrying out extremely complex calculations, our prototypes still find very interesting uses.

One of these is the creation of a new phase of matter called a “time crystal.” Just as a crystal’s structure repeats in space, a time crystal repeats in time; more importantly, it does so infinitely and without any further input of energy.

The starting point of a time crystal is a lattice of particles that can have only two possible states, called up and down. When such a system is “kicked” by a laser, the particles start oscillating between the two states. The peculiarity of this phenomenon is that the frequency of the particles is half the frequency of the laser.

The challenge with this scientific illustration was to create appealing visuals of a very abstract concept, while being as scientifically accurate as possible. 

First, I decided to use the conventional representations of light and particle states that are used in physics: sine waves and up and down arrows.

Since time is the most relevant dimension in this phenomenon, I decided to “plot” it in the horizontal direction; the flow of time is also emphasized by color transitions. Space, on the other hand, is in the vertical and depth directions, as it is shown by the grid of shiny particles.

The scientific accuracy of the illustration is made possible by the fact that two oscillations of the same particle are spaced exactly by two wavelengths of the laser beam.

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