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Quantum Network Experiment Could Change The Way We Communicate

Apr 09, 2013 02:07 PM EDT
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The theory that entangled particles, once separated, are still capable of reflecting each other instantly is a phenomenon even Albert Einstein seemed unsettled by, famously calling it, when done at a distance, "spooky." Decades after the great scientist's death, however, researchers are ready to put it into action at a distance that's never been seen before - 250 miles.

As explained in a proposal published by the Institute of Physics and the New Physics Journal, researchers explain how, with only a few small changes to the International Space Station (ISS), they would be able to test the theory of quantum entanglement over a distance nearly three times that done so far.

Already equipped on the ISS is the NghtPod - a Nikon camera with a 400 mm lens pointed at earth through a window in the Cupola Module. By replacing the camera with a single-photon counting module, physicists explain that they would be able to carry out two different experiments.

One of them would work to confirm that the entangled photons are in fact under governance of quantum physics rather than classical physics, which doesn't allow for the sort of teleporting-like behavior the photons appear to be engaged in.

The second would consist of using the ISS as a relay point in order to send a secret encryption key far above the planet's surface.

Should it prove to be a success, scientists believe they may be able to develop a worldwide quantum network through which similarly encrypted messages could be transmitted between devices hooked into it. 

If the theories hold, these experiments will, according to the propsal, "provide the basis for a whole variety of additional future experiments" as well as "prove the feasibility of global quantum communication using state-of-the-art technology as a kind of path-finder mission."

This graph was taken from the study proposal submitted to New Journal of Physics.

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