A record-breaking distance has been achieved in the bizarre world of quantum teleportation, scientists say.
The scientists teleported photons (packets of light) across a spool of fiber optics 63 miles long, four times farther than the previous record. This research could one day lead to a "quantum Internet" that offers next-generation encryption, the scientists said.
Teleporting an object from one point in the universe to another without it moving through the space in between may sound like science fiction pulled from an episode of "Star Trek," but scientists have actually been experimenting with "quantum teleportation" since 1998.
Quantum teleportation depends on capturing the fundamental details of an object — its "quantum states" — and instantly transmitting that information from one area to another to recreate the exact object someplace else.
Quantum teleportation relies on the strange nature of quantum physics, which finds that the fundamental building blocks of the universe can essentially exist in two or more places at once. Currently, physicists can't instantly transport matter (say, a human), but they can use quantum teleportation to beam information from one place to another.
"Only about 1 percent of photons make it all the way through 100 kilometers of fiber," study co-author Martin Stevens, a quantum optics researcher at the NIST in Boulder, Colorado, said in a statement. "We never could have done this experiment without these new detectors, which can measure this incredibly weak signal."
The scientists detailed their findings online Tuesday in the journal Optica.
Quantum teleportation could enable the development of a "quantum Internet" that allows messages to be sent more securely, Stevens said.
"A quantum Internet could allow you to establish communications channels that are much more secure than what we have with the standard encryption protocols we use everyday nowadays," Stevens said.
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