Dutch scientists working with the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience at the Delft University of Technology have made a stunning breakthrough in quantum technology by successfully teleporting data across a distance of about 10 feet with perfect accuracy, reports the New York Times. The advance ought to have Albert Einstein, who famously dismissed the idea of quantum teleportation as "spooky action at a distance," rolling in his grave.
Einstein struggled mightily with many of the theoretical consequences of quantum theory, perhaps none more so than the notion of entanglement, the phenomenon that makes teleportation possible. It's easy to understand why; the idea is, well, downright spooky.
Entanglement is the weird instantaneous link that has been shown to exist between certain particles, such as photons or electrons, even if they are separated by vast distances. Although entangled particles do not appear to have any physical connection, they are capable of acting in concert. For instance, if you change the spin of one, the spin of the other will also be altered. All of this happens instantaneously, even if the two particles exist at opposite ends of the universe, as if they are one. How exactly the phenomenon happens is a complete mystery. That it happens, however, has been verified by numerous experiments.
The task for scientists hoping to invent teleportation technology is to hijack this phenomenon, but it's no easy task. Entangled particles are frustratingly fickle, difficult to capture and even more difficult to manipulate. But the breakthrough made by the Kavli Institute scientists could be a game-changer. It not only demonstrates that quantum teleportation is possible, but that it is technologically applicable.
Previous attempts to teleport information by manipulating entangled particles have been promising, but have fallen short of practical application. For instance, a University of Maryland study back in 2009 demonstrated that it could be done, but only one out of every 100 million attempts succeeded. At that speed, it would take about 10 whole minutes to transfer just a single bit of quantum information.
Comparatively, the Kavli Institute scientists were able to achieve the feat 100 percent of the time, essentially accomplishing deterministic control over the phenomenon. They did so by producing quantum bits using electrons trapped in diamonds at extremely low temperatures. These ultra-cold gemstones effectively acted as prisons, trapping the electrons and allowing the scientists to accurately establish their spin, or value.
If they can repeat the experiment over distances significantly larger than 10 feet, it could mean that incomprehensibly fast quantum computers and a quantum internet are just around the corner.
“There is a big race going on between five or six groups to prove Einstein wrong,” said Ronald Hanson, a physicist who leads the group at Delft. “There is one very big fish.”
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