Scientists in the Netherlands have managed to reliably teleport quantum data for the first time, bringing us one step closer to the possible wonders of (data) teleportation. The research was published this week in the journal Science.
The New York Times explains that "teleportation" in this context refers to the instantaneous sharing of quantum information; specifically, the spin state of an electron. The Times adds that "classical bits, the basic units of information in computing, can have only one of two values — either 0 or 1. But quantum bits, or qubits, can simultaneously describe many values."
The Delft University scientists trapped electrons in diamonds at extremely low temperatures and separated them by about ten feet. By storing them in such a way, researchers were able to observe their quantum properties, and determine that the electrons had become "entangled," making it impossible to differentiate their respective electron spins. Here's a (surprisingly entertaining) video made by the scientists to explain their research:
According to the Times, the team is not the first to attempt the transfer, but it is the first to have done so with such accuracy:
In the past, scientists have made halting gains in teleporting quantum information, a feat that is achieved by forcing physically separated quantum bits into an entangled state. But reliability of quantum teleportation has been elusive. For example, in 2009, University of Maryland physicists demonstrated the transfer of quantum information, but only one of every 100 million attempts succeeded, meaning that transferring a single bit of quantum information required roughly 10 minutes.
Delt physicist Ronald Hanson said "There is a big race going on between five or six groups... there is one very big fish."
Though this type of teleportation won't allow us to travel immediately from one place to another, a la Star Trek, it could help us eventually build faster, more secure computers. Which might be just as good.