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Vedika Khemani wins Breakthrough New Horizons Prize

Vedika Khemani, Applied Physics Professor, by courtesy, has won a Breakthrough New Horizons Prize for work on time crystals, a new non-equilibrium phase of matter. The $100,000 New Horizons Prize in Physics is given each year to up to three “promising junior researchers who have already produced important work,” according to the prize website.

By Taylor Kubota
Time crystals got their name for the fact that, like crystals, they are structurally arranged in a repeating pattern. But, while standard crystals – like diamonds or salt – have an arrangement that repeats in space, time crystals repeat across time forever. Importantly, they do so without any input of energy, like a clock that runs forever without batteries. Khemani’s work offered a theoretical formulation for the first time crystals, as well as a blueprint for their experimental creation. But she emphasizes that time crystals are only one of the exciting potential outcomes of out-of-equilibrium quantum physics, which is still a nascent field.

“None of the world is in equilibrium; just look out your window, right? We’re starting to see into these vastly larger spaces of how quantum systems evolve through experiments,” said Khemani, who who is faculty in the School of Humanities and Sciences and a member of Q-Farm, Stanford’s broad interdisciplinary initiative in quantum science and engineering. “I’m very excited to see what kinds of new physics these new regimes will bring. Time crystals are one example of something new we could get, but I think it’s just the beginning.”

New Horizons prizes are one of three groups of Breakthrough Prizes in physics – the others are the $3 million Special Breakthrough Prize and the $3 million Breakthrough Prize. The Breakthrough Prizes also recognize researchers in mathematics and life sciences. Called the “Oscars of Science,” the prizes are celebrated at a gala award ceremony presented by superstars of movies, music, sports and tech entrepreneurship. Since the prizes began in 2012, 10 Stanford faculty and researchers have won Breakthrough Prizes.

(Image credit: Rod Searcey)