Scientists are a little bit closer to faster computing and better encryption after two experiments discovered the first ways to reliably use quantum teleportation to transfer information.
Quantum teleportation involves quantum entanglement, in which two separate particles have an effect on one another. For example, if particle A is measured to be spinning up, it will cause particle B to assume a state where it is spinning down. If you know the state of particle A or B, you can infer the state of the other particle.
That allows the communication of information without actually physically transferring it through the air or a cable. The particles remain in place while influencing one another. Different particle states can represent the 1s or 0s of binary code, known as bits, which is used today in computing and telecommunication to encode information. String lots of them together and you can form words, commands and other data. Unlike traditional bits, quantum bits, or qubits, can carry a 1 and a 0 instead of just one or the other. This allows them to store more information more efficiently.
The first experiment (subscription required), which comes out of the University of Tokyo and Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, transferred four qubits at a time with an accuracy of 79 to 82 percent. The qubits were sent more than 6,500 miles between Japan and Germany. Qubits have been transferred on-demand before, but at shorter distances and with a low success rate.
The researchers entangled big groups of photons, or light particles, instead of just two. This allowed more information to be sent at once.
The second experiment (subscription required) sent qubits over a much smaller distance: 6 millimeters. Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich sent the information across a device that resembles a computer chip. It is the first time teleportation has been achieved within an electronic circuit. It is also the fastest teleportation system ever, as it is able to send 10,000 qubits a second.
“This is interesting, because such circuits are an important element for the construction of future quantum computers,” study lead Andreas Wallraff said in a release.
The Zurich researchers will now focus on increasing the distance over which the qubits are sent, potentially allowing communication between chips.
Scientists are interested in quantum teleportation because it could lead to faster, more efficient computing and communication. Photons travel at the speed of light and the connection in state between any entangled particles is nearly instant.
Teleportation is also more secure, as there is no signal being sent between two locations that could be intercepted. Quantum computers would also make better encryption possible because they can factor incredibly large numbers–an accomplishment out of reach for the average computer today.