Science 3 min read

Beam me up, Scotty! Teleportation is Here

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Peshkova |

Shattering their own record, Chinese researchers used a quantum satellite to “teleport” a photon between two ground stations that were over 1,200 km apart.

You’d be forgiven if you couldn’t wrap your head around the “quantum entanglement” phenomenon that Einstein himself described as “spooky action at a distance.”

And in fact, when we say teleportation is here, we’re really referring to quantum entanglement.

Of the mind-boggling concepts within quantum physics, “quantum entanglement” enables two particles (like photons), however distant from each other, to be connected and act as one.

Chinese researchers have teleported a photon.Click To Tweet

More and more research initiatives are starting to pave the way for practical applications of quantum entanglement.

Teleportation is Here: Entangled Photons Over Record Distance

Last year, the University of Science & Technology of China (USTC) launched the Quantum Experiments Space Scale (QUESS), the world’s first quantum satellite named Mozi (or Micius), after a Chinese philosopher.

Orbiting between 500 to 1,400 kilometers above the Earth, the Mozi satellite has an ultra-sensitive receiver capable of detecting the quantum state of a photon sent from the ground.

Earlier this month, a team of scientists at USTC announced that they had “teleported” an entangled photon between Mozi and two ground stations in the Gobi desert

This is not the first quantum teleportation experiment, but, after sending entangled particles over 1,200 km, USTC researchers have set a new record–beating their own record from last June.

However, the photon in question has never left its place and wasn’t “teleported” in the way people are rematerialized in Star Trek.

Ultra-Secure Quantum Communication System

Separated by hundreds of miles, photons still share a quantum link by which the slightest change to one photon simultaneously affects the other.

The photons were captured at two ground stations situated 1,200 km from one another in the mountains of Tibet.

The Mozi team changed photon information in one ground station, which was then automatically communicated to the twin photon in the second station via the Mozi satellite–and that’s quantum magic at work.

Despite just 1 in 6 million photons communicated over the entanglement, the researchers then sent quantum keys over the entanglement which requires communicating several strings of photons. This would pave the way for secretive communication where eavesdroppers would be detected.

Replicating information over a great distance is a technical feat in its own right, and that could open the door to advanced telecommunications technologies.

Using a network of quantum satellites and ground stations, a quantum-based communication system could be a hack-proof method to transmit encrypted data. This is possible because in an entangled pair of photons when one is disturbed, or hacked, the entanglement is dissolved.

What’s more, a sophisticated network of quantum entangled particles and satellites could make for a worldwide quantum Internet.

What’s the next breakthrough for our favorite ‘spooky action’?

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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