A recent experiment in quantum teleportation has set a new distance record. Does it mean that we are one step closer to a real-life Star Trek?

Quantum Teleportation

While the teleportation of matter is impossible with the current technology (so, unfortunately, at the moment we are not talking about Star Trek’s ‘beaming up’ of people), scientists can teleport information. In particular, it’s the so-called quantum state of an object that gets teleported, which allows to recreate exactly the same object somewhere else. This possibility relies on the controversial theory of quantum physics, according to which the fundamental building blocks of the universe can exist in two or more places simultaneously.

The reality of quantum teleportation is based on a strange phenomenon called quantum entanglement. It occurs when a pair of particles acts like a single entity when subjected to a variety of impacts. Changing the state of one of the particles entangled at the quantum level instantly triggers the change in the second particle’s state, which, in theory, can be located at any distance from the first one – even on the other side of the universe. We don’t fully understand the mechanisms behind this phenomenon because of the difficulty in measuring the particles’ states – measuring one immediately affects the state of the other.

The New Distance Record

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) managed to teleport photons carrying quantum information over 63 miles (102 kilometers) of optical fiber, a distance that is four times greater than the one achieved in the previous record-breaking experiment. The results were published in the journal Optica.

The successful outcome of the experiment became possible thanks to advanced single-photon detectors, the work of which is based on superconducting wires of molybdenum silicide. Their properties allow them to record more than 80% of arriving photons while the previous experiments only reached up to 75% efficiency. The detectors were cooled to nearly 457 degrees Fahrenheit (272 degrees Celsius) below zero. The experiment was focused on a near-infrared wavelength, which is used in telecommunications.

Only about 1 percent of photons make it all the way through 100 kilometers (60 miles) of fiber,” study co-author Martin Stevens said in a press release. “We never could have done this experiment without these new detectors, which can measure this incredibly weak signal.”

Future advancements

The next step is the development of even more advanced single-photon detectors, which could allow a further increase in the distance for quantum teleportation, the researchers said.

This new quantum teleportation technique could contribute to the creation of the devices called quantum repeaters, which, in turn, could pave the way for a quantum Internet. Unlike modern communications, this type of Internet connection would offer the total security of the transferred data.

A quantum Internet could allow you to establish communications channels that are much more secure than what we have with the standard encryption protocols we use everyday nowadays,” Stevens said.

With further breakthroughs in quantum teleportation, which have become quite frequent in the recent years, we could soon see the quantum Internet and other amazing technological advances become a reality.

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