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Scientists break quantum teleportation distance record

Currently, quantum communication is mostly used in information security, but researchers say the technology could one day be used to create a quantum Internet.

By Brooks Hays
Scientists break quantum teleportation distance record
A single-photon detector used to pick up entangled quantum data. Photo by NIST

BOULDER, Colo., Sept. 22 (UPI) -- Researchers with the National Institute of Standards and Technology have set a new distance record for quantum teleportation, sending quantum data through fibers four times longer than the previous record-holder.

Scientists successfully sent and received quantum information, encoded in light photons, through 62 miles of fiber.

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Other experiments have successfully teleported quantum data over longer distances through free space, but quantum communication through fibers is more difficult -- and of more significance to practical applications of the technology.

Researchers chronicled their feat in the latest issue of the journal Optica.

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"What's exciting is that we were able to carry out quantum teleportation over such a long distance," study co-author Martin Stevens, a quantum optics scientist at NIST, told Live Science.

Quantum teleportation isn't instantaneous. But by encoding the fundamental physics -- or "quantum states" -- of an object onto light particles, researchers can beam information across long distances. These entangled quantum states can be detected and used to recreate the object, or encoded information, on the other end of the fibers.

Currently, quantum communication is mostly used in information security, but researchers say the technology could one day be used to create a quantum Internet. But to do so, scientist need to find strategies for long-distance, fiber-based quantum teleportation.

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What made the feat possible, researchers say, is the newly designed photon detectors deployed on the far-end of the fibers.

"Only about 1 percent of photons make it all the way through 100 kilometers (60 miles) of fiber," Stevens said in a press release. "We never could have done this experiment without these new detectors, which can measure this incredibly weak signal."

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