Monday, 14 May 2012

Physicists break distance record for teleportation


A few days ago a new paper published in arXiv indicated an exciting new development within the emerging science of teleportation.

In an advance that has significance for quantum computing and secure wireless communication, physicists at the University of Science and Technology in Shanghai have broken the record for the distance photons have been artificially teleported.  Their research is important, because teleportation is considered to be extremely useful for the future of secure communication across satellite networks.

MIT's Technology Review reports:

"Teleportation is the enabling technology behind quantum cryptography, a way of sending information with close-to-perfect secrecy. Because teleported information does not travel through the intervening space, it cannot be secretly accessed by an eavesdropper."
"Unfortunately, entangled photons are fragile objects. They cannot travel further than a kilometre or so down optical fibres because the photons end up interacting with the glass breaking the entanglement. That severely limits quantum cryptography's usefulness. However, physicists have had more success teleporting photons through the atmosphere."

Scientists at the University of Science and Technology in Shanghai have had considerable success with this technique. In 2010 they teleported photons 16km, and last week, they confirmed they have broken their own distance record by teleporting photons across 97km. Juan Yin, and his colleagues in Shanghai used a 1.3-watt laser to beam photons across the 97 km, and retrieve them at the final location.
Teleportation has moved on considerably in recent years, and is no longer the preserve of science-fiction, but rather an important new technology within communications, computing and cryptography.  Quantum teleportation takes advantage of quantum entanglement for the purposes of moving an object from one place to another without it ever moving in the space between. As Technology Review put it, "the idea is not that the physical object is teleported but the information that describes it."

Juan Yin's team in Shanghai have advanced the science of teleportation by developing a superior aiming technique, which prevents the disintegration of entanglement over short distances.  This has enabled them to increase the distance they can teleport photons from merely a few kilometres, to close to 100 kilometres.  Further improvements will be required in order for the technique to be of widespread use in secure satellite communications, but the rapid advances Juan in's team have made, suggest this is merely a matter of time.

As Juan Yin commented:
"The successful quantum teleportation [...] in combination with our high-frequency and high-accuracy [aiming] technique show the feasibility of satellite-based ultra-long-distance quantum teleportation".


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