Physicists Crack Quantum Teleportation of Data
Scientists at Boulder’s National Institute of Standards and Technology published a paper in the scientific journal Optica this week describing how they had recently been able to “perform highly efficient multifold coincidence measurements, resulting in the successful quantum teleportation over 100 km of fiber.”
According to some publications, such as the Christian Science Monitor, this amounts to “breaking the quantum teleportation record.” In a sense, this claim rings true – the previous record using a similar technique was 25 kilometers. However, the researchers are not talking about teleportation in the sense that most readers will think of it. They are not talking about having an item exist here, in one place, and then exist in another place, instantaneously.
According to Physicist Lukas Saul of the Wentworth Institute of Technology, the researchers are engaging in a form of scientific hyperbole. “The authors appear to have made interesting advances in materials and signals physics,” he told Hacked upon reviewing their paper.
However, they don’t appear to understand that a photon, as a descriptor of the quantization of light, is an absorption or emission phenomenon. A detection of light is a photon. Further, it is worth noting that these experiments can be explained with local physics, without the notion of teleportation.
According to the paper, entitled “Quantum teleportation over 100 km of fiber using highly efficient superconducting nanowire single-photon detectors,” the authors used a different material than was used in the previous “record-setting” experiment.
Molybdenum Silicide – Key Ingredient
Their superconducting nanowire single-photon detector was made of molybdenum silicide as opposed to the amorphous tungsten silicide previously experimented with. In the early parts of the paper, before the paragraphs start swimming in complex equations, it appears this is what made all the difference. Molybdenum itself is a commonly used metal for things like saw blades, but the silicide’s (or disilicide’s) uses are still being determined, and it is apparently hazardous to human health given prolonged naked exposure.
The paper closes by admitting they have only pushed further an ongoing effort to achieve quantum communication:
[…] we can expect that the highly efficient multifold photon measurement using the SNSPDs will pave the way toward advanced quantum communication systems based on multiphoton quantum states such as the Greenberger–Horne–Zeilinger state and the cluster state over optical fiber.
While the Christian Science Monitor and other outlets have broadly advertised this research as a breakthrough in “teleportation,” what’s really on offer here is a peek at the future of truly instantaneous communication. If 60 miles can be achieved today, we may reasonably expect 600 miles next year. Science like this can take millenia to refine, but the researchers in Colorado have broken ground in their own right, and future generations of humans may well owe them thanks for it.
Featured image form Shutterstock.