A MAJOR breakthrough in quantum teleportation gives hope for the creation of an “unhackable” global internet.
Scientists have managed to teleport so-called 3D information – the most complex ever transferred using quantum systems.
Quantum physics is the mechanics of the smallest particles and energy levels known to science.
And using these systems to “teleport” information is absolutely possible, but remains mysterious and difficult.
Rather than physically shifting matter across space, quantum teleportation relies on transferring information about the state of a particle.
Until now, scientists have been unable to teleport complex information using quantum systems.
Previously, teleportation was limited to quantum bits – or qubits.
These qubits are the simplest type of quantum information, where a particle can be in two states at once.
Quantum breakthrough: teleporting ‘qutrits’
However, scientists have now successfully teleported a particle known as a qutrit, thanks to work by the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the University of Vienna, and the University of Science and Technology of China.
A qutrit a like a qubit but with a third dimension, effectively making the system more detailed.
Most computing happens on binary systems, where switches are toggled between off and on – or 0 and 1.
For instance, modern computers have huge numbers of tiny switches, allowing for lots of calculations to happen at once.
But a qutrit can be a 0, 1 or 2, significantly increasing the amount of information that can be transferred at one time.
With quantum teleportation, this information can be transported immediately and securely.
“The higher the dimensions of your quantum system, the more secure you can ensure your communication is and the more information you can encode,” said Ciarán Lee, of University College London, speaking to New Scientist.
“But going from a qubit to a qutrit is especially difficult — the tricks you use for qubits have to do with a nice symmetry that qutrits don’t have.”
The hope is that quantum teleportation can be used to create an “unhackable” internet.
That’s because entangled particles are very delicate, so it’s easy to tell if the information has been interfered with.
And any interference would likely destroy the interaction anyway.
What is quantum entanglement?
Here’s what you need to know…
- Quantum physics relates the the smallest energy levels and particles known to science
- At this miniscule level, a strange phenomenon known as quantum entanglement occurs
- Every particle has its own quantum state, which describes all of its characteristics
- A quantum state includes things like position, momentum, energy, angular momentum, spin and so on
- But sometimes, two (or more) particles can act on each other and become “entangled”
- This means they can only be described by a quantum state for the pair or group, rather than by their individual quantum states
- These particles are always connected and behave as one
- It’s a bit like a giant invisible see-saw, with particles at either end
- And this remains true even at astonishing distances – even across billions of light years, scientists say
- Albert Einstein famously described entanglement as “spooky action at a distance”
- Scientists hope that quantum entanglement can be used to send information quickly and safely over long distances
- For instance, entangled particles are very delicate, so any interference from hackers would be easily detectable – and likely destroy the information being passed on
- However, it is very difficult to control quantum systems, and even today quantum physics is poorly understood
How does quantum teleportation work?
It relies on quantum entanglement, which is when tiny particles become “entangled” – and influence each other’s state.
This can happen over immense distances, even billions of light years across the universe.
For teleportation, the sender and receiver would each receive one of a pair of entangled particles.
The sender can then measure how their particle interacts with another one that holds the information they’re trying to send.
These measurements can then be applied to the entangled particle, allowing a receiver to work out what information has been sent.
But it’s very difficult, extremely fragile and poorly understood – so we’re still a long way from the “unhackable” internet scientists dream of.
The bad news is that quantum teleportation probably isn’t useful for transporting people.
So don’t get your hopes up for instant travel across space just yet.
Earlier this year, scientists claimed to have created the world’s first “time machine” using quantum physics.
There’s also hope for lightsabers after physicists managed to create a new ‘interactive’ light.
And a mind-boggling experiment “confirmed” that two realities can exist at the same time.
If you could teleport anywhere right now, where would it be? Let us know in the comments!
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