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China teleports quantum information to space, a first

Researchers described the feat as "an essential step toward global-scale quantum internet."

By Brooks Hays
A diagram reveals the various components used to teleport quantum information from Earth into space. Photo by University of Science and Technology of China
A diagram reveals the various components used to teleport quantum information from Earth into space. Photo by University of Science and Technology of China

July 12 (UPI) -- For the first time, scientists in China have successfully teleported a photon to space using quantum entanglement -- the coupling of two quantum particles over vast distances.

The quantum information was sent from a ground station in China to the Micius satellite in space, orbiting 746 miles above Earth's surface. Micius was launched into space in August 2016.

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The feat marks the first time scientists have launched quantum information into space, shattering the record for the longest distance over which quantum entanglement has been demonstrated.

Quantum entanglement describes the connected nature of two quantum particles generated at the same time and point space. The particles exist within in the same wave function, mimicking one another regardless of the distance between the two.

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By teleporting quantum information, researchers can cause a photon in one place to behave like the photon in another. The phenomenon has a been demonstrated countless times in laboratories on Earth, and used to move information through quantum computing. But until now, scientists had never transferred quantum information into space.

The feat could set the stage for testing all kinds of quantum technologies scaled for use in space.

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"Long-distance teleportation has been recognized as a fundamental element in protocols such as large-scale quantum networks and distributed quantum computation," the Chinese research team said in a news release.

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Over a period of 32 days, the scientist generated millions of tangled photons, sending one of each pair into space. They successfully measured quantum entanglement in 911 cases.

Researchers described the feat as "the first ground-to-satellite up-link for faithful and ultra-long-distance quantum teleportation, an essential step toward global-scale quantum internet."

The research was published this week online.

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