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“Teleportation” of First Object to Space Paves the Way for Quantum Internet
2017-07-14 08:07:24
Liza Tan

Photo by: USAF

The subject of Teleportation had been a topic that have piqued the interest of scientists throughout the decades.

Indeed, people have been speculating through science fiction movies and books the possibility of transferring an object from one place to another without needing to use transportation.

After all, such method would open a door to infinite possibilities, aside from making it easier for us to move stuff, especially data.

This has been a long-standing interest of physicist for quite a while when they started challenging the potentials of quantum physics.

At present, a Chinese team of researchers led by a physicist at the University of Science and Technology of China in Shanghai, Jian-Wei Pan, decided last year to challenge once again teleportation through quantum entanglement, something that has been long challenged by scientists in the past.

Last year, this group of scientists launched a Long March 2D rocket, which carried a satellite called Micius from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Gobi Desert north of China and south of Mongolia.

Micius is a photon receiver that is highly sensitive and able to detect the quantum states of single photons fired from the ground.

Back then, they were looking forward to results that would enable them as well as future scientists to examine the technological building blocks for various quantum feats including teleportation.

The satellite was placed in a Sun-synchronous orbit, and its location allowed it to pass over the same point on Earth at the same time every day.

In July of 2017, the team of researchers announced the results of their first experiments.

Their satellite-to-ground quantum network broke a record after the scientists successfully intertwined quantum particles from ground stations to a satellite at a distance of 1200 km.

“Long-distance teleportation has been recognized as a fundamental element in protocols such as large-scale quantum networks and distributed quantum computation,” said the scientists.

They described “quantum entanglement” as “where two particles react as one with no physical connection between them.”

They noted their previous experiments which had been a matter of trial and error in past efforts.

“Previous teleportation experiments between distant locations were limited to a distance on the order of 100 kilometers, due to photon loss in optical fibers or terrestrial free-space channels,” they said. 

According to the team, entanglement is actually fragile as photons could interact with matter in the atmosphere or inside optical fibers.

It is possible to lose the entanglement altogether as a result.

Following the groundbreaking results of the recent teleportation experiment by Chinese researchers, physicists have once again raised challenging questions regarding quantum physics.

“This work establishes the first ground-to-satellite up-link for faithful and ultra-long-distance quantum teleportation, an essential step toward global-scale quantum internet,” Pan's team said.

Ian Walmsley, Hooke Professor of Experimental Physics at Oxford University, explained on World At One how quantum entanglement works and what possibilities the results of the Chinese scientists could open.

He noted also that “they’re able to transfer the information from one to another.

It’s not physically transporting the object.

It’s changing the information content in a way that allows you to replicate in space the same information you had on Earth.

Revolutionary Experiment

Quantum entanglement involves transmitting information by “downloading” information from one photon to another, resulting in the second photon taking on the identity of the first.

With the successful teleportation through quantum entanglement, the speculation over the development of quantum internet once again surfaced.

Prof.Ronald Hanson, Delft University of Technology, in the Netherlands, in 2015 proved the possibility of quantum entanglement by linking two particles at a distance of 1.3 km alongside a team of scientists.He explained to Horizon the mechanisms behind the quantum internet.

“One of the things that we could do is to be able to generate a key to encode messages with. (Using the quantum internet) the security of that key would now be based on this property of entanglement, and this is basically the properties of the laws of physics.” He said.

“That’s probably the first real application, but there are many, many more applications that people are thinking about where this idea of entanglement, this invisible link at a distance, could actually be helpful.”

Challenges to the Physicists

Alexander Ling, a physicist at the National University of Singapore, applauded the team’s experiment results. "It's very encouraging," he said.

However, he said that Pan's team recovered only about one out of every six million photons sent from the satellite, stressing as well this was far better results compared to other ground-based experiments.

Other physicists are working just as hard to challenge further the potential of quantum entanglement.

Pan expects the launching of more satellites including those with stronger beams that are detectable even during the day, as the Micius satellite could operate only at night.

"In the next 5 years we plan to launch some really practical quantum satellites," he said, noting China's National Space Science Center would also launch satellites.


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