Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have set a new distance record for quantum teleportation, relaying quantum data through fibers that are four times longer than previous record holders, says UPI. Detailed in the latest issue of the scientific journal Optica, the researchers were able to successfully transfer quantum information, which is encoded in light photons, through 62 miles of fiber.
“What’s exciting is that we were able to carry out quantum teleportation over such a long distance,” Martin Stevens told Live Science, study co-author and a quantum optics scientist at NIST.
In other instances, researchers successfully teleported quantum data across longer distances in free space, but quantum communication using fibers is not only more challenging, but also holds more practical uses for the technology.
Quantum communication is currently most used in information security, but researchers have been looking into using it to build a ‘quantum internet’, essentially meaning a kind of internet that would be relatively slower, but much more secure. However before that idea can become a reality, researchers need to find a way to use fiber-based quantum teleportation for long distance. The process may not be immediate, but by encoding the fundamental physics (or ‘quantum states’ ) of an object onto light particles, scientists can effectively broadcast information over long distances. These quantum states can then be used to recreate the object or encoded information at the other end of the fibers.
The key to the technology that led to this broken record, researchers say, is the newly designed photon detectors that are set up on the far-end of the fibers.
“Only about 1 percent of photons make it all the way through 100 kilometers (60 miles) of fiber,” said Stevens in a press release. “We never could have done this experiment without these new detectors, which can measure this incredibly weak signal.”
So it will be interesting to observe where this technology goes next. If you’re completely opposed to the idea of (god forbid) a slower internet, experts say that there may be a way to utilize both versions of the web accordingly.
“It’s entirely realistic that we may be able to use the regular Internet by default and switch over to quantum when we need to transmit sensitive data like a credit card number. There’s no reason the two couldn’t interact like that.” Professor Alex Lvovsky told Business Insider at the International Conference on quantum computing in Moscow.