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All-optical dissipative discrete time crystals.


Time crystals are periodic states exhibiting spontaneous symmetry breaking in either time-independent or periodically-driven quantum many-body systems. Spontaneous modification of discrete time-translation symmetry in periodically-forced physical systems can create a discrete time crystal (DTC) constituting a state of matter possessing properties like temporal rigid long-range order and coherence, which are inherently desirable for quantum computing and information processing. Despite their appeal, experimental demonstrations of DTCs are scarce and significant aspects of their behavior remain unexplored. Here, we report the experimental observation and theoretical investigation of DTCs in a Kerr-nonlinear optical microcavity. Empowered by the self-injection locking of two independent lasers with arbitrarily large frequency separation simultaneously to two same-family cavity modes and a dissipative Kerr soliton, this versatile platform enables realizing long-awaited phenomena such as defect-carrying DTCs and phase transitions. Combined with monolithic microfabrication, this room-temperature system paves the way for chip-scale time crystals supporting real-world applications outside sophisticated laboratories.

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