For the first time, physicists have succeeded in teleporting information from one place to another in a solid state system -- a feat they carried out using an electronic circuit similar to a computer chip.
The fundamental difference between the circuit and a usual computer chip lies in the way the information is stored and processed: conventional chips rely on laws of classical physics while the one used in the experiment performed by physicists from ETH Zurich did not. Rather, it relies on a different set of rules defined as quantum physics, which uses quantum bits, or qubits, to relay information.
Unlike a classical bit of information, which alternates between the states 1 and 0, qubits can boast both values simultaneously, opening up the doors for the researchers to teleport information across a distance of roughly 6 milimeters from one corner of a chip to the other, and all without transporting the physical object actually containing the information itself.
"Usually, in telecommunication information is transmitted by electromagnetic pulses. In mobile communications, for example, microwave pulses are used, while in fiber connections it is optical pulses," explains Andreas Wallraff, Professor at the Department of Physics and head of the study.
In quantum teleportation, on the other hand, the information carrier is not transported -- only the information. This is done through the entanglement of the sender and the receiver best explained in layman's terms, according to the researchers, as a "magic" link uniting two separate parties.
Once this link is created, it's able to remain intact even when the two parties are physically separated from one another. As a result, the physicists were able to program a bit of quantum information into their device at the sender and have it read out by the receiver.
"Quantum teleportation is comparable to beaming as shown in the science fiction series Star Trek," says Wallraff. "The information does not travel from point A to point B. Instead, it appears at point B and disappears at point A, when read out at point B."
And while 6 millimeters may seem miniscule, especially in light of an experiment that took place a year ago in which Austrian scientists teleported information some 100 kilometers, the new study is fundamentally different in that it relies not on visible light in an optical system for teleportation, but instead marks the first time such a feat was carried out in a system made of superconducting electronic circuits.
And this, Wallraff explains, is key "because such circuits are an important element for the construction of future quantum computers."
Furthermore, the system used by the ETH scientists is much faster than most others, capable of teleporting roughly 10,000 qubits per second.
Going forward, the researchers say they plan on working to increase the distance across which the information is teleported and even try to teleport information from one chip to another. Looking even further down the road, the team hopes to determine whether quantum communication over distances comparable to those achieved today with optical systems is even possible with electronic circuits.
And in the long term the goal will be to explore whether quantum communication can be realised over longer distances with electronic circuits, more comparable to those achieved today with optical systems.
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