Researchers at Zurich’s Federal Institute of Technology (ETHZ) may not yet be able to beam objects and people through space Star Trek-style, but for the first time they have successfully used quantum physics to teleport data in an electronic circuit.
According to an article published in the scientific journal Nature on Wednesday, the Zurich team managed to teleport information in a so-called “solid-state system” in a device similar to a conventional computer chip.
The data was teleported across a distance of six millimetres from one corner of the chip to the opposite side. No physical particles moved from one corner of the chip to the other during this information transfer, the ETHZ said in a press release.
“Quantum teleportation is comparable to beaming in the science fiction series Star Trek,” explained Andreas Wallraff, a professor at ETHZ’s Department of Physics and head of the study. “The information, however, does not travel from point A to point B. Instead, it appears at point B and disappears from point A when read out at point B.”
Quantum teleportation relies on an aspect of physics known as "entanglement", whereby the properties of two particles can be tied together even when they are far apart. Albert Einstein called it "spooky action at a distance".
An entangled state is created between the sender and the receiver. After that the two parties can be physically separated from each other while preserving their shared entangled state. In the present experiment the researchers programmed quantum information into their device at the sender. Because the two parties were entangled, this information could be read out at the receiver.
Previous teleportation experiments have used optical systems with visible light to transmit information.
Close-up of one of the quantum bits used in the teleportation experiments
(Arkady Fedorov, Lars Steffen / ETH Zurich)
The ETHZ scientists were the first to teleport information in a system of superconducting circuits. Such electronic circuits are important for the construction of quantum computers, which promise to revolutionise information technology because they are much faster and more powerful than systems based on classical physics.
Wallraff noted that the ETHZ systems were “clearly faster” than most previous teleportation systems, allowing the transfer of about 10,000 quantum bits per second. A quantum bit, or qubit, is a unit of quantum information.
The next step will be to increase the distance between the sender and the recipient and to teleport information from one chip to another, the researchers said. They aim to find out whether they can use electronic circuits for quantum communication over larger distances similar to teleportation with optical systems.
A year ago Austrian researchers teleported information over more than a hundred kilometres between the Canary Islands La Palma and Tenerife. However, those experiments were different because they used optical systems with visible light.