Traveling for some is a pleasure but there are times, such as during the daily commute, when getting from A to B is just a tedious and often laborious necessity.
We look with envy at our futuristic cartoon and film heroes who simply teleport from place to place, disappearing in one location and appearing just seconds later at their desired destination. This novel idea, once thought to be rooted firmly in the imagination of science-fiction authors, may be one step closer to becoming a reality.
Professor Nicolas Gisin, from the physics department at the University of Geneva, has managed to achieve the teleportation of an object over a distance of 15.5 miles (25 kilometers). Before we get too excited and start scanning the internet to buy our home teleportation unit, it should be explained that in this case, it was the quantum state of a photon that was sent to another crystal-encased photon in another location. Nevertheless this was a mind-boggling leap forward in the field of quantum physics.
It is not the first time that such a feat of teleportation has been achieved, however; the same team managed to send the quantum particle a distance of 3.7 miles (6 kilometers) over a decade ago. Team leader, Felix Bussières, has been trying to explore and improve quantum data transfer over the past ten years by constantly updating the technology involved and methods used.
The results of the latest study, which ended in March, were published in the journal Nature Photonics at the end of September, and described how the team used two entangled photons, one housed in a crystal which acted as a memory bank, to interact and exchange information with a third, unrelated photon. The first photon was sent 15.5 miles along an optical fiber to collide with the third photon which, it was anticipated, would destroy both entangled photons. But the information held in the first photon was transferred to the third photon, and the information from the third photon was found in the memory of the crystal. This could then be measured to confirm that the same information had been preserved in the exchange between first and second protons.
The team stated “that the quantum state of the two elements of light, these two entangled photons which are like two Siamese twins, is a channel that empowers the teleportation from light into matter, ” and they attempted to explain the complex exchange in the same terms as the energy transfer that occurs when two billiard balls collide:
“It is a bit like a game of billiards, with a third photon hitting the first which obliterates both of them. Scientists measure this collision. But the information contained in the third photon is not destroyed — on the contrary it finds its way to the crystal which also contains the second entangled photon.”
Though it is still a long way from the teleportation of larger forms of matter, the experiment still illustrates significant progress in the field.