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Quantum Teleportation Breakthrough Discovered By Canadian Scientists

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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Beam me up, Scotty. Researchers in Canada break record after teleporting information between two city-based locations

Scientists in Canada have set a new record for ‘quantum teleportation’, in a significant move that could promote the possibility of quantum network in a city location.

The development saw two separate teams move information from one location to another, all without physically sending anything between the various locations.

Quantum Teleportation

Unlike Star Trek movies where teleportation is often used for the movement of star fleet personnel, quantum teleportation refers to when a particle can be transferred to another particle in a separate location, without anything physical travelling between them.

It utilises the principle of entanglement, in which measuring the state of one particle immediately affects the state of its entangled partner, regardless of the distance between them.

Prior experiments have successfully utilised quantum teleportation over greater distances, most notably in 2012, when Anton Zeilinger of the University of Vienna carried out quantum teleportation over 143km of free space between different Canary Islands.

But proving that teleportation works over several kilometres of the optical fibre used in metropolitan areas has not happened until now, as cities tend not to have free space and interference can destroy quantum states.

But Wolfgang Tittel at the University of Calgary in Canada has revealed that he and his colleagues were able to teleport the quantum state of a photon, or light particle, over 8.2km in Calgary.

quantum-computer-internet-illos-660x433They utilised part of Calgary’s fibre optic network that wasn’t being used for regular communications.

“Here, using the Calgary fibre network, we report quantum teleportation from a telecom photon at 1,532 nm wavelength, interacting with another telecom photon after both have travelled several kilometres and over a combined beeline distance of 8.2 km, onto a photon at 795 nm wavelength,” the researchers revealed.

Their paper showed that the teleportation involved the creation of two photons at the University of Calgary. One of the photons was sent in a “classical” way along 11.1km of optical fibre to a building near Calgary City Hall, while the other remained behind at the university.

Another photon meanwhile was also sent to City Hall from another location, which resulted in the quantum state of the travelling photon being transferred to the photon which remained behind at the university.

New Record

“We have shown that this works across a metropolitan fibre network, over 6.2 kilometres, as the crow flies,” Tittel was quoted by New Scientist as saying.

Meanwhile scientists in China have also achieved something similar. Qiang Zhang and Jian-Wei Pan from the University of Science and Technology of China, Shanghai, reportedly used a different set-up to achieve teleportation over a 30km optical fibre network in the Chinese city of Hefei.

But why are these developments important?

Well, both studies demonstrate that teleportation works over several kilometres of the optical fibre used in metropolitan areas. This means that in the future, a quantum internet could be created that would allow quantum communications over much bigger distances with the use of repeaters to amplify signals.

“The two experiments can be seen as milestones on the path to a long-term goal, namely to build a fibre-based quantum internet connecting large cities,” Johannes Kofler at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Munich was quoted by the New Scientist as saying.

Quantum Computing

Quantum computing promises a major breakthrough for computers when analysing large quantities of data.

Quantum computers offer a massive improvement over conventional computers because they make use of the fact that quantum systems exist in multiple states at the same time, an effect made famous by Schrodinger’s cat paradox, in which a cat sealed in a box away from all interactions can be simultaneously alive and dead.

A quantum system interacts with information using quantum bits (or ‘qubits’), which can mean both ‘1’ and ’0’ simultaneously. Quantum computers can process multiple inputs at the same time – effectively in parallel universes – and determine the right answer to problems which have a huge numbers of possible solutions, as long as their qubits can be kept in a coherent state, isolated from the outside world.

So for example, the theory is that a quantum computer will be able to do tasks that are impossible today, such as large-scale financial analysis and more effective drug development.

Last year Australian researchers from the University of NSW claimed a breakthrough regarding coding in silicon microchips. They said at the time that the development brought the first functional quantum computer one step closer.

And quantum computing has attracted the attention and funding from a number of technology giants, including Intel, Google, and Microsoft.

In December 2013, the British government announced it would invest £270 million over the next five years, on five Quantum Technology Centres, to develop commercial applications.

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