TECH

Scientists Teleport A Photon From Earth To Orbit For The First Time

This is literally making our brain hurt.

12/07/2017 11:14

In what is a world first, scientists have managed to teleport an object from Earth to orbit using a process called quantum entanglement.

The team, from the University of Science and Technology of China, were able to create a link between its surface station and China’s quantum satellite Micius.

Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images
Quantum satellite 'Micius' flies past the quantum teleportation experiment platform in Ali, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region.

Now to understand how this is possible you’re going to have to stick with us because this is where things start to get a little weird.

The whole process is based on a theory known as quantum entanglement.

Quantum entanglement describes how two objects, in this case photons, can be created at the exact same time and point in space and share the same quantum state.

These two objects are now inexorably linked which means that even if you split them apart over extremely long distances you can alter the state of one and it will be perfectly mimicked on the other because they are, and this is where your brain might hurt, the same photon.

Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images
Composite photo shows a satellite-to-earth link established between quantum satellite 'Micius' and the quantum communication ground station in Xinglong, north China's Hebei Province.

What the team did then was create a pair of entangled photons and beam one up to the satellite some 500km away.

They were then able to measure the photon down on the ground and notice identical changes with the one in orbit.

Quantum Communications: The ‘Unhackable’ Message

So aside from being incredibly cool, why would scientists want to do this? Well for starters you could create what is in effect, unhackable communications.

You see by utilising quantum entanglement there’s no reason why you can’t ‘download’ information to one photon which would then immediately make that information appear on its paired clone.

There would be no middle ground to intercept, and if anyone tried then it would break the connection between the two photons and they would lose their identical states.

Now it’s important to note that before we all start sending quantum messages to each other that this is in the very early stages.

For starters the team of scientists had to place their ground station some 4,000km above sea level just to reduce the interference between the station and the satellite.

However by showing that it is indeed possible to teleport an object over huge distances, this marks the first step towards what could be a new era of communications and computing.

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