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Researchers teleported a photon from Earth to orbit for the first time

Covering a distance of 500 km, the team of researchers from China has been successful in teleporting a photon to the Micius satellite orbiting Earth.

In an attempt to create a global-scale quantum internet, a team of researchers from China was successful in teleporting a photon from Earth to a satellite in orbit around the planet. This experiment becomes the first satellite-to-ground quantum network to be ever created. Based on a phenomenon called quantum entanglement, the scientists broke the record for the longest distance over which entanglement was achieved previously.

The satellite called Micius was launched last year and put into a Sun-synchronous orbit as it circled around the Earth. The specialty of the Micius satellite is that it can detect quantum states of photons with the help of a sensitive onboard photon receiver. In order to carry out the experiment, photons were fired from a ground station in Tibet, situated at an altitude of 4,000 metres, towards the satellite. The experiment will explore several aspects of quantum physics including cryptography, entanglement, and teleportation. Quantum entanglement is the primary phenomenon that enables quantum teleportation. Entanglement between two photons occurs when two photons in the same space have the same properties. Essentially, the second photon will turn into the first photon after it replicates all the properties from the first photon. The distance in this space can vary from the next room to even light years apart.

Can we beam anyone up?

Whether it’s real life or sci-fi, teleportation has always been pursued. We are nowhere close to beaming a person even across a short distance. Heck, we aren’t even close to teleporting lab mice or even apples to a different pan. Teleportation has already been carried out several times in labs but only photons were teleported to distances of over 100 kilometres. These teleportations were conducted using optical fibres or terrestrial free-space channels. Because of photon loss through these mediums while traversal, achieving longer distances was limited. Establishing entanglement between a set or group of photons and teleporting all their properties hasn’t been achieved yet. Although, we have been able to teleport a maximum of two properties of a single photon to another proton, according to a 2015 research. So, we have only been successful in teleporting single photons over short distances and are way too far from teleporting ourselves.

Global-scale internet for everyone

The Chinese researchers didn’t carry out the teleportation exercise to teleport astronauts to space. The research is dedicated to creating a network between Earth and any satellite orbiting it. The team said that this experiment sets the first “ground-to-satellite up-link” ensuring quantum teleportation across long distances which can be used to build a “global-scale quantum internet”. Such a scale of an internet will enable quicker transmission of data between Earth and satellites including the space stations.

Source: MIT Technology Review

Abhijit Dey

Abhijit Dey

While indulging deep into conspiracy theories surrounding comic book movie plots, he can be found rewatching them looking for easter eggs. Otherwise, his weekends are spent on gaming and browsing memes.