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The idea of teleportation is no more just in sci-fi movies or fiction books, it has become a real-world phenomenon! Also called teletransportation, this power is defined as the transfer of energy without traveling any physical space.

Years ago, a rocket called Long March 2D carrying the highly sensitive ‘Micius’ (named after an ancient Chinese philosopher) was launched from the Gobi Desert in Asia and placed in an orbit, that passed over the same point daily, This was to act as a light-receiver and simultaneously help in understanding quantum information such as entanglement and teleportation. After several rounds of research and experiments, Chinese scientists have declared that they have developed the first ‘satellite-to-ground quantum network’ that was instrumental in beaming an object, namely a tiny photon, from Earth to space. This groundbreaking work has encouraged comments from Prof. Anton Zeilinger, mentor to lead scientist of the project, Pan Jianwei. He said, “It is a very nice experiment - I would not have expected everything to have worked so fast and so smoothly.”

What Does Teleportation Mean?

The concept behind this mind-boggling occurrence is a phenomenon called quantum entanglement. This happens when two particles or photons at the same time and place, having a single existence or wave function, change location and follow each other, even on separation. When another particle comes into play interacting with the second of the entangled two, the change is reflected on the former as well. This creates a mirror-effect of the twin, essentially causing teleportation.

How Did This Happen?

During the course of time, it was noticed that long distance links hampered progress as entangled photons had a bandwidth of just 150km before they got absorbed. With this study, the team of researchers reported the independent photon to be able to teleport from the ground to the orbit satellite up to 1400km in distance. This is important because “long-distance teleportation has been recognized as a fundamental element in protocols such as large-scale quantum networks and distributed quantum computation.” It is understood that in an ideal scenario, there is no issue of maximum distance but due to the photon-atmosphere’s unpredictability and the intricacy of entanglement, it becomes challenging.

The experiment was conducted as follows: Entangled photons with a rate of 4000m/s were developed on the ground and one was broadcast to the overhead satellite every night, keeping the other on the ground. A calculation of the number of light particles on Earth and in orbit confirmed a case of entanglement and teleportation. Philosopher Micius will sure be proud!

The future looks promising, and as quoted by a member of the research group, “This work establishes the first ground-to-satellite up-link for faithful and ultra-long-distance quantum teleportation, an essential step toward global-scale quantum internet.” In the days to come, we will see further advances in this area, possibly one even breaking the barriers for human teleportation!

Top image: Pacific ocean from space (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

References:

Ren, J.G. et al. (2017), ‘Ground-to-satellite quantum teleportation’, Quantum Physics

Emerging Technology (2017), MIT Technology Review, https://www.technologyreview.com/s/608252/first-object-teleported-from-earth-to-orbit/, (accessed 16 Aug 2017)

Spender, T. (2017), BBC News, http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-40594387, (accessed 16 Aug 2017)

Rice, D. (2017), USA Today, https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/science/2017/07/13/beam-me-up-scientists-teleport-1st-object-ever-earth-into-space/475713001/, (accessed 17 Aug 2017)

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Meghna Rao, MSc

A postgraduate in Bioscience with work experience in research and communications in the healthcare, medical and scientific domains; areas of specialization include scientific content creation, medical editing, blogging in science and biotechnology, with a fair knowledge in grant writing and scientific journalism. Also, she is passionate about travel blogging, practicing yoga, volunteering in non-profits for education. Read More

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