This is not the same as "classical" teleportation akin to Star Trek. Just to get that out of the way nice and early.
Scientists say they have set a new distance record for quantum teleportation, which could be important in terms of quantum computing, but probably less so in beaming yourself to a spacecraft. So, what is quantum teleportation? Let’s take a look.
The term "teleportation" is admittedly a bit of a misnomer, although it is the term used by scientists. Quantum teleportation is basically the transfer of information relating to a photon across large distances. It involves reconstructing the quantum state – set of information – of a photon in a different location. In this instance, the information was transported across 102 kilometers (63 miles) of optical fiber, four times further than previously possible. For a more detailed description of how it works, check out our previous article on the last record.
In this latest breakthrough at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) laboratory in Colorado, the researchers used new single-photon detectors to increase the distance of quantum teleportation. Only 1% of photons make it all the way down the fiber, so the detectors must be extremely sensitive. In this study, they were able to record more than 80% of incoming photons; previously, fiber transmission resulted in too great a loss of quantum data, making teleportation over long distances impossible. "We never could have done this experiment without these new detectors, which can measure this incredibly weak signal," said NIST’s Marty Stevens in a statement.
The research, published in the journal Optica, also described how this technique could be used to make "quantum repeaters," repeatedly sending the data to allow for greater distances. This could be one step towards a high-speed and ultra-encrypted quantum Internet.
Now the researchers want to up the rate of teleportation in photons; currently, the effect only occurs in 25% of transmissions. It’s a long way to go until this technique becomes truly useful, but it’s a start at least.