Ever watched a sci-fi movie where a person gets teleported to another place almost instantly? It seems like we are one step closer to making that happen, at least with data. Scientists have now created a way to transfer data through something called 'qubit teleportation'. This allows the free flow of data without passing through a conductive material, for example, a fiber optic cable.
In a paper published in the science journal Nature, a team of physicists from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands explained how they made a breakthrough in qubit teleportation.
We can say that quantum computers have been there some time now. In fact, Google has also achieved 'quantum supremacy' by doing an experiment on a quantum computer that is impossible on a traditional one. But quantum computers cannot reach their full potential without the magical powers of qubit teleportation, or the 'quantum internet'.
Quantum computers are fundamentally different from traditional computers. Just like a normal computer stores data in bits, a qubit is the basic measuring unit for quantum computers. However, this is where the similarity ends.
A binary bit is a boolean data type. This means that it can only have either zero as its value or one. A qubit, on the other hand, can have both the values at the same time. This is similar to how a coin behaves when it is tossed up - it has the values of both 'heads' and 'tails' at the same time before finally landing. A qubit can thus store substantially more information than a traditional bit. This means a single qubit can store two values, three qubits can store eight, four qubits can store 16 values and so on. As the number of qubits grow, the information they can store exponentially increases.
The physicists teleported data between three nodes. Previously, this was possible only between two. With this experiment, the scientists have indicated that qubit teleportation can be achieved between multiple sites. “We are now building small quantum networks in the lab,” said Ronald Hanson, the Delft physicist who oversees the team. “But the idea is to eventually build a quantum internet.”
Tracy Eleanor Northup, a researcher at the University of Innsbruck’s Institute for Experimental Physics who is also exploring quantum teleportation, said:
“This not only means that the quantum computer can solve your problem but also that it does not know what the problem is. It does not work that way today. Google knows what you are running on its servers.”
A quantum computer is able to generate a qubit because of the strange way particles behave when they are very small, like an electron or a light particle, or very cold, like an exotic metal cooled to nearly absolute zero kelvin (or -273.15°C and -459.67 °F).
Researchers believe that quantum computers can potentially speed up the development of new medicines, power advances in artificial intelligence and could even be used to create even more secure encryption technologies.
Since there is no conductive material between any nodes, quantum internet allows a reliable transfer between nodes even in the presence of highly lossy network connections, but without losing any actual data.
The way this works is by the quantum property of 'entanglement'. A change in the state of one quantum system instantaneously changes the other distant quantum system that is entangled. “After entanglement, you can no longer describe these states individually,” Dr. Northup said. “Fundamentally, it is now one system.”
Dr. Hanson and his team used a nitrogen vacancy system. This is a tiny empty space in a synthetic diamond that can be used to trap electrons. The team built three of such systems - named Alice, Bob, and Charlie. The researchers first entangled two electrons belonging to Alice and Bob by sending individual photons (particles of light) to them. Both the electrons were given the same spin and thus, entangled them.
The researchers then transferred the state of the electron to a carbon nucleus inside Bob's synthetic diamond. This freed up Bob's electron using which they could entangle Charlie as well. By doing a quantum procedure, the researchers glued the two entanglements together - Alice and Bob with Bob and Charlie.
This allowed data to be directly teleported from Alice to Charlie since they were now entangled with each other. When data travels using qubit teleportation, it cannot be lost or even hampered with. This could potentially allow a theoretical level of encryption that would be impossible to decrypt.
Although the teleportation occurred between a mere distance of about 60 feet, scientists are hopeful that this can be done between many miles. Eventually, it could create a new network of quantum computers or quantum internet that is highly secure, safe and reliable.