Quantum teleportation has achieved a new milestone or, should we say, a new ten-milestone: scientists have recently had success teleporting information between photons over a free space distance of nearly ten miles, an unprecedented length. The researchers who have accomplished this feat note that this brings us closer to communicating information without needing a traditional signal, and that the ten miles they have reached could span the distance between the surface of the earth and space.
As we’ve explained before, “quantum teleportation” is quite different from how many people imagine teleportation to work. Rather than picking one thing up and placing it somewhere else, quantum teleportation involves entangling two things, like photons or ions, so their states are dependent on one another and each can be affected by the measurement of the other’s state.
When one of the items is sent a distance away, entanglement ensures that changing the state of one causes the other to change as well, allowing the teleportation of quantum information, if not matter. However, the distance particles can be from each other has been limited so far to a number of meters.
Teleportation over distances of a few hundred meters has previously only been accomplished with the photons traveling in fiber channels to help preserve their state. In this particular experiment, researchers maximally entangled two photons using both spatial and polarization modes and sent the one with higher energy through a ten-mile-long free space channel. They found that the distant photon was still able to respond to changes in state of the photon they held onto even at this unprecedented distance.
However, the long-distance teleportation of a photon is only a small step towards developing applications for the procedure. While photons are good at transmitting information, they are not as good as ions at allowing manipulation, an advancement we’d need for encryption. Researchers were also able to maintain the fidelity of the long-distance teleportation at 89 percent— decent enough for information, but still dangerous for the whole-body human teleportation that we’re all looking forward to.
Science, 2010. DOI: 10.1038/NPHOTON.2010.87
More about quantum teleportation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_teleportation