Dutch scientists achieve quantum teleportation of data

31 May 2014, by
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While scientists at Delft University of Technology are quick to point out that teleporting people, beaming them up Star-Trek style, is impossible according to the laws of physics, they are very proud to announce they have achieved teleportation of data.

Researchers at TU Delft’s Kavli Institute of Nanoscience succeeded in transferring information between two computers without the information travelling through the intervening space.

The information was contained in a quantum bit or qubit, which is the quantum analogue of a classic bit, and was sent to a different quantum bit three metres away. That, they say, is teleportation.

Quantum computing

The researchers are calling this development an important step towards a quantum network for communication between ultra-fast quantum computers, one of which is already being built at TU Delft.

The discovery is, in effect, a quantum internet. Just as quantum computers will be able to solve certain important problems that current supercomputers are unable to, a quantum internet will enable completely secure information transfer.

That means that listening in to communications, such as has been happening in the Netherlands, will be fundamentally impossible in a quantum network.

Achieving teleportation

In order to achieve the teleportation, scientists used an unusual phenomenon called entanglement.

"Entanglement is arguably the strangest and most intriguing consequence of the laws of quantum mechanics," said Professor Ronald Hanson, the head of the project.

Teleportation of quantum information

"When two particles become entangled, their identities merge: their collective state is precisely determined, but the individual identity of each of the particles has disappeared. The entangled particles behave as one, even when separated by a large distance. The distance in our tests was three metres, but in theory the particles could be on either side of the universe."

A disbelieving Einstein called it "spooky action at a distance." Numerous experiments, however, agree with the theory.

The Holy Grail of Quantum Mechanics

The success of the experiment is very good news TU Delft’s quest to be the first to find the Holy Grail of quantum mechanics: conducting a loophole-free Bell test.

Professor Hanson is planning to repeat the experiment this summer over a distance of 1.300 metres, with chips located in various buildings on TU Delft's campus, the experiment that could be the first to meet the criteria of the loophole-free Bell test.

A successful test could provide the ultimate evidence to disprove Einstein and enshrine entanglement as scientific fact.

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Alexandra Gowling

Alexandra is an Australian citizen and an experienced expat, having spent (quite a bit of) time in A...

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