A world where we can actually say, “Beam me up, Scotty,” may become possible thanks to some new technology out of China.
In an experiment led by Chinese scientists, a photon’s information was reproduced in space almost 500 km above the earth’s surface – though the range can be as much as 1400 km.
You have to be careful about language here, as it wasn’t quite teleported. The photon on earth had its information transferred then replicated in space. The distance covered is much farther than anything ever done like this before.
The photon does not get shot super-fast into space, nor does it lose its information at the original spot of transfer. Scientists use complex methods of quantum entanglement to reproduce the key data of the object in another location.
The technology might not be used to teleport you to a warm beach somewhere, or even away from work, but it has incredible potential for almost-instant data transfers. That could mean faster internet speeds and the ability to quickly share massive files.
This sort of quick transfer and reproduction of photons has happened on Earth over short distances before, but the breakthrough comes in the sheer distance covered. And because this info went to a satellite, it mimics what a normal routine of this kind of data transfer may look like in the future once the technology is fully understood. Sending info up to satellites then back down to a location is a much straighter and cleaner route rather than pinging off multiple points on the earth’s surface.
The scientists published their findings in a study online and stated: “This work establishes the first ground-to-satellite uplink for faithful and ultra-long-distance quantum teleportation, an essential step toward global-scale quantum internet.”
The race of quantum optics is based on distances – breakthroughs come in how far one can transfer the information of a photon.
At the end of last year, there was a breakthrough when the University of Calgary partnered with US researchers to transfer a photon 6 km. Now seven months later, we’re up to 1400 km. Beaming up to the space station may be far in the future, but quantum internet may be closer than ever.