A group of scientists working at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has managed to successfully transfer information from on proton to another one 100 kilometers away (60 miles). This could ultimately lead not to actual teleportation, but rather to unhackable conversations.

Wait, teleportation?

Most of us hear ‘teleportation’ and think ‘Beam me up, Scotty’, but quantum teleportation is very different. It relies on a phenomenon called quantum entanglement. Quantum entanglement occurs when a pair of quantum particles are generated or interact in such a way that the quantum state of each particle cannot be described independently—instead, a quantum state may be given for the system as a whole; they are entangled. Basically, when you transmit information to one, it instantly gets transmitted to the other as well – so sorry to disappoint you, but this isn’t actually physical teleportation. It can only be used for information. Albert Einstein called this “spooky action at a distance.”

Here’s an image detailing how this works:

Image via Optica.

So this type of teleportation won’t actually help with real teleportation, but will help with something called quantum encryption – it could pave the way for a new generation of security encryption. The key here is another strange quantum property: whenever a quantum state is observed, it changes. Basically, you a particle can be in both states until you actually measure it – when you measure it, it becomes either one or the other. So when two people are sharing information and a third tries to peak, it will destroy the quantum state – this makes it basically impossible to hack this type of conversations. It goes without saying that many parties are very interested in this technology. But before we can start talking about incorporating this type of encryption, we have to achieve quantum teleportation over larger and larger distances.

Enjoyed this article? Join 40,000+ subscribers to the ZME Science newsletter. Subscribe now!

Estimate my solar savings!