Observation of discrete time-crystalline order in a disordered dipolar many-body system

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Understanding quantum dynamics away from equilibrium is an outstanding challenge in the modern physical sciences. Out-of-equilibrium systems can display a rich variety of phenomena, including self-organized synchronization and dynamical phase transitions1,2. More recently, advances in the controlled manipulation of isolated many-body systems have enabled detailed studies of non-equilibrium phases in strongly interacting quantum matter3,4,5,6; for example, the interplay between periodic driving, disorder and strong interactions has been predicted to result in exotic ‘time-crystalline’ phases7, in which a system exhibits temporal correlations at integer multiples of the fundamental driving period, breaking the discrete time-translational symmetry of the underlying drive8,9,10,11,12. Here we report the experimental observation of such discrete time-crystalline order in a driven, disordered ensemble of about one million dipolar spin impurities in diamond at room temperature13,14,15. We observe long-lived temporal correlations, experimentally identify the phase boundary and find that the temporal order is protected by strong interactions. This order is remarkably stable to perturbations, even in the presence of slow thermalization16,17. Our work opens the door to exploring dynamical phases of matter and controlling interacting, disordered many-body systems18,19,20.

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