Physicists have created a strange phase of matter with two dimensions of time


Physicists created an odd phase of matter with two dimensions of time
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Through the Looking Glass: The world of quantum physics and quantum computing is difficult for most people to understand. I’ve read quite a few books on the subject, but the research I’m about to cover makes me dizzy. Somehow scientists created a new phase of matter with two-dimensional time.

Scientists from the Center for Computational Quantum Physics at the Flatiron Institute in New York have created a new, never seen before phase of matter. Its peculiarity is that atoms have two time dimensions, although they exist in our single time stream. The team published their study in the journal Nature on July 20.

Physicists have created this strange phase of matter by firing a laser with a pulse based on the Fibonacci sequence at the atoms used inside a quantum computer. They argue that this could be a breakthrough in quantum computing because it can protect stored information from the errors that occur in current quantum storage methods. Data degradation is still happening, but at a much slower rate.

The paper’s lead author Philippe Dumitrescu said he has been working on the theory behind the science for more than five years, but this is the first time it has been “realized” in practical experiments.

“[This dynamical topological phase] is a completely different way of thinking about the phases of matter,” Dumitrescu told

Must Read: Quantum Computing Explained

The researchers implemented their theory by gating ions of an element in quantum computers called ytterbium. When they collided with ions in a standard repeating pattern (AB, AB, AB…), the resulting qubits remained quantum for 1.5 seconds, which they noted was an incredible improvement.

However, when they blasted the ions with a Fibonacci impulse (A, AB, ABA, ABAAB, ABAABABA…), the qubits remained in a superstate for an astounding 5.5 seconds. The results are startling considering that the average lifespan of a qubit is about 500 nanoseconds (0.00000005 seconds). This short life is due to the fact that the qubit leaves its superstate (where it exists simultaneously as 1 and 0) whenever it is observed or measured. Even interactions with other qubits are enough to destroy this quantumness.

“Even if you keep all the atoms under tight control, they can lose their quantumness by talking to the environment, heating up or interacting with things differently than you planned,” Dumitrescu said. “In practice, experimental devices have many sources of errors that can degrade coherence after just a few laser pulses.”

The physics behind this is quite complex for non-experts, but it is illustrated in the Penrose tiling pattern above. Like typical crystals, this quasicrystal has a stable lattice but a structure that never repeats. This pattern is a 2D representation of a 5D square grid.

The researchers wanted to create the same symmetrical structure, but built it not in space, but in time. Physicists have used a pulsed Fibonacci laser to create a higher-dimensional qubit with “time symmetry”. When “pressed” into our four-dimensional space, the resulting qubit has two time dimensions. This extra dimension protects the qubit from quantum degradation to some extent. However, it only applies to the outer “edges” of a series of 10 ytterbium ions (the first and tenth qubits).

“With this quasi-periodic sequence, a complex evolution occurs that eliminates all the errors living on the edge,” Dumitrescu said. “Because of this, the edge remains quantum mechanically coherent for much, much longer than you would expect.”

While physicists have shown that this method creates much more reliable qubits, they acknowledge that they still have a lot of work ahead of them. This new phase of matter could lead to long-term storage of quantum information, but only if they can somehow integrate it into a quantum computer.

“We have this direct, enticing application, but we need to find a way to connect it to the calculations,” said Dumitrescu. “This is an open issue that we are working on.”

Image Credit: Quantinuum

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