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WATCH: How Quantum Teleportation Works

Teleportation is no longer science fiction - thanks to quantum mechanics scientists can teleport information securely from one place to another. The latest episode of Quantum Around You explains how.

SCIENCEALERT STAFF
28 OCT 2014
 

When most people think about teleportation, they think about someone disappearing in one spot and appearing in another instantly, Star Trek style. While that would be extremely useful, so far scientists haven't found a way to do it.

 

But what they have managed to do is teleport information, and in some ways that’s even cooler.

Quantum teleportation, as its known, is a crucial area of research because it’s the only way humans can transmit information completely securely, with no risk of interception. 

To do this, scientists exploit the special characteristics of quantum entanglement. You may have heard of it before, but the latest episode of  University of New South Wales (UNSW)'s Quantum Around You does an amazing job of breaking down the physics behind the process.

As Associate Professor Andrea Morello, from the School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications at UNSW, explains, quantum entanglement is when two electrons become linked and lose their individuality. This means their state or “spin” - which can either be up or down - is defined only as being the opposite of each other.

If you split up two entangled electrons, the person with one can you’re suddenly able to transmit information from one to the other. 

That means you could encode information on a single electron (an up spin could mean one thing while a down could mean another, or more commonly, up could represent a '1' in the binary code, while down represents a '0'), and the person with the other entangled electron would be able to access that information by looking at what state their electron is in.

So how is that teleportation? What many people don't realise is that as soon as that information is transmitted, it disappears from the electron of the sender and instantly reappears on the recipient's electron. Ta da! This is because the sender has to to use another, non-entangled electron to read the information properly, and as soon as they do this the entanglement is lost.

But even though this is a pure example of teleportation, it doesn’t actually contradict Einstein’s theory of relativity, which states nothing can move faster than the speed of light.

Watch the episode above to find out why, and learn more about how scientists are making information disappear and reappear all over the world.

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