Last year scientists managed to teleport photons over 100 kilometers, smashing previous records. While impressive, their method used lasers to control the entanglement of the particles involved. This allowed them to achieve successful teleportation over a vast distance, but it’s not a practical methodology for putting this technology to use.
But now scientists have achieved a new benchmark in teleportation. Two independent teams, one in Calgary, Canada, and another in Hefei, China, have used city optical fiber cables to teleport quantum information over 7 kilometers. That might not sound like much compared to previous feats, but because they used cables instead of lasers — city cables, no less — it means the technology is far more feasible, reports New Scientist.
If you’re a bit behind, still astonished by the fact that teleportation is possible in the first place, then buckle up. Quantum teleportation is a real thing thanks to an uncanny quantum property known as entanglement, something so anti-intuitive that Einstein called it “spooky action at a distance.” Basically, it’s possible to link two particles together in such a way that whatever happens to one also happens to the other instantly, no matter how far apart the two entangled particles are from each other. It seems like magic, but it’s a feature that’s been thoroughly tested.
There’s a catch, though. It doesn’t quite work like the teleportation devices from “Star Trek” that you might be accustomed to. This technology can’t transport people or large objects across distances instantaneously. It can only teleport information — but that’s still pretty incredible.
The potential benefit of teleportation technology like this is that the information being teleported is almost impossible to hack. When information can be transported instantaneously across a distance, then there’s no time to intercept it. The flipside is that the information is also difficult to keep intact. Keeping particles entangled is a delicate procedure, which is why successful teleportation across a distance measured in kilometers is so impressive.
That the experiments were successful using existing telecommunication infrastructure in modern cities means that quantum-encrypted information could become commonplace sooner rather than later.
“The two experiments can be seen as milestones on the path to a long-term goal, namely to build a fiber-based quantum internet connecting large cities,” explained Johannes Kofler from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics.