New record for quantum teleportation

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A group of scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology has recently broken the distance record for quantum teleportation down optical fiber, showing they’re successfully able to transfer quantum information over 60 miles. The scientists have shown that they can achieve quantum communication, mostly achieved in free space, over standard fiber-optic lines. It means they’ve been able to transfer the information down fiber four times further than the previous record, which is an attractive proposal for those pointing to create a quantum internet.

Quantum teleportation isn’t somewhat the matter-shifting method of Star Trek, but instead the process of transporting — in fact researchers say ‘remotely reconstructing’ — information that’s detained in the quantum state of one chunk of matter or light to another, some distance away. The NIST researchers have proved that they can transfer the quantum state from one photon, over the distance of 102 kilometers (60 miles) of spooled optical fiber in the lab, to another photon. The experiment is informed in OpticaIt may sound like a reasonable stage to send quantum information down fiber optic cable—after all, it’s how much of the world’s data is now sent. But it was only made possible at such distances by a new type of single-photon detector developed at NIST. “Only about 1 percent of photons make it all the way through 100 km of fiber,” explains Marty Stevens, a NIST researcher, in a press release. “We never could have done this experiment without these new detectors, which can measure this incredibly weak signal.”

Quantum teleportation is thought to be a promising route to developing quantum encryption — theoretically an unbreakable system where quantum states are used to hide data. But there’s a little work to be done before this technique can be used to achieve such a goal: the researchers can only achieve teleportation in 25 percent of transmissions at best, and 60 miles may be a long way but it’s dwarfed by the scale of fiber optic cables used to transmit data across the Internet. Still, it’s good to have targets, right?
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