Scientists have successfully teleported something into space for the first time ever.
The experiment saw Chinese scientists send a proton up away from Earth, further than ever before.
Teleportation of this kind uses the bizarre effects of quantum entanglement, rather than actual flinging the object itself over distances. Instead it transfers the information about a photon to another point in space – creating a faithful replication of the object, rather than physically travelling the object.
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It marks the first ever time that effect has been tested over long distances. The success could bring with it a whole range of uses – including a quantum internet that connects different parts of the world with seemingly impossible speed.
Until now, experiments had been restricted to short distances because of problems with the wires or signals that would carry the information.
But the new test saw scientists teleport up to a satellite. That is likely to be the way that such teleportation will work in practice – sending objects up to space and then back down again to wherever they’re needed, since it means that there’s relatively clear paths between all of the different points.
Teleportation has become fairly common on the Earth, where scientists can instantly shoot information about protons over small distances. But the new study moves towards making that effect more practically useful.
“This work establishes the first ground-to-satellite up-link for faithful and ultra-long-distance quantum teleportation, an essential step toward global-scale quantum internet,” the scientists write in their paper, which has been published online.
It works by harnessing the strange effects of quantum entanglement, which Einstein described as “spooky action at a distance”. The effect describes the behaviour where particles seem to act on each other instantly and in bizarre ways.
That entanglement isn’t constrained by distances, meaning that two particles can interact despite being a very long way apart. Scientists hope to be able to use that effect for their own ends – sending messages that are received instantly, for instance.