Chinese and Canadian Scientists a Step Closer to Secure Quantum Internet

Chinese and Canadian scientists recently announced that they have successfully carried out a form of quantum teleportation by teleporting tiny photon particles across a whole city, according to a report from the South China Morning Post.

According to the report, the two separate teams were able to teleport the photons through cables across several kilometres of optical fibre network in Calgary in Canada and Hefei in Anhui province. Even though experiments such as this have been undertaken before, this is the first time it has successfully worked in two separate laboratories.

This is believed to be a significant step forward in the creation of a quantum Internet, which would prevent eavesdropping due to the fact that the particles used would not be observed without modification.

What is Quantum Teleportation?

This is a phenomenon whereby the quantum information of one atom or photon can be transmitted to another atom or photon without any physical thing traveling between the two.

In order to achieve this, it relies on a process known as entanglement. This is the where the state of one atom or photon affects the state of its entangled pair, irrespective of the distance between them.

Image from National Institute of Standards & Technology via SCMP

For example, in the Canadian experiment, Dr. Wolfgang Tittel and colleagues were able to teleport the state of a photon over 8.2km, which is explained in great detail in this Nature Photonics Letter.

To start, however, two photons were initially created at the University of Calgary (site B). While one of the photons was sent along 11.1 km of optical fibre to a building located near Calgary City Hall (site C), the second photon stayed at the university. In addition to this, a photon was sent to City Hall (site A) from a different site located in the neighborhood of Manchester.

The quantum state of the photon from site A is teleported to the photon, which was left behind at the university, site B.

Teleportation of Humans Is Still Impossible

While the experiment by the two teams demonstrates that teleportation across an entire city is possible, it’s still a long way off before objects or humans themselves will experience the same thing. Yet, the method presents huge promise for the future of ultra-secure communications that quantum cryptography can deliver.

According to Ben Buchler, associate professor with the Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology at the Australian National University, this is a ‘pretty profound’ experiment.

Speaking to the Daily Galaxy, Buchler said that:

People have known how to do this experiment since the early 2000s, but until these papers it hasn’t been performed in fibre communication networks, in situ, in cities. It’s seriously difficult to do what they have done.

According to Professor Zhang Qiang, one of the leaders of the Chinese team, the work undertaken was a small step toward realizing the possibilities of a quantum Internet. However, the storage of fragile quantum data remained an issue.

SCMP reported that in French physicist Frederic Grosshans opinion, a quantum computer will not occur anytime soon and that ‘the first ones, whether they will be built in 2030 or 2070 would be very expensive machines.’

China’s Quantum Breakthroughs

China, it seems, is continuing to lead the race with their quantum breakthroughs.

Recently a Chinese military technology company unveiled that it was testing a new form of a quantum radar system that is designed to detect stealth planes 100 km away.

While Hacked reported on China’s launch of the world’s first satellite in August, which has been designed to test quantum communication in space. Its aim is to demonstrate secure communication based on quantum entanglement over unparalleled distances.

With the success that China has so far demonstrated with quantum technology, it seems likely that the country will continue to lead the race in the future. The country seems to be striving toward authority, which it could achieve if it continues on its current path of success.

Featured image from Nature. Story image from SCMP.