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‘Beam me up Scotty’… New research on quantum teleportation promises a truly secure quantum internet

With the arrival of quantum computing it is uncertain how long the encryption algorithms that are protecting our private information, will hold, says the author, image, Pixabay.

With the arrival of quantum computing it is uncertain how long the encryption algorithms that are protecting our private information, will hold, says the author, image, Pixabay.

Published May 31, 2022

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TELEPORTATION is a popular subject in science fiction literature, film and television.

The first description of a matter transmitter appeared in the 19th Century in Edward Mitchell’s book “The man without a body” in 1877.

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A more scientific description of teleportation is found in the 1897 novel “To Venus in five seconds” by Fred Jane. But it was most probably the “Star Trek” television series that made the concept popular with the famous phrase by Captain Kirk of the Starship Enterprise to his chief engineer, Montgomery Scott: “Beam me up.”

Teleportation is a hypothetical mode of instantaneous transfer of matter or energy from one point to another, without crossing the physical space between them.

Matter is dematerialised and converted into minute particles or energy at one point and then re-created in its original form at another point.

A teleportation world with less traffic congestion and a parking-free city would be wonderful, but it will probably remain a dream for many years to come, since there is currently no known physical mechanism that allows for teleportation.

But teleportation is already possible at a quantum level, often referred to as “quantum teleportation”.

Scientists in the past were successful in transporting the information about an atom across a lab instantaneously. Quantum teleportation, therefore, does not transfer matter from one place to another, but merely transmits the information necessary to prepare a microscopic target system in the same quantum state as the source system.

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Quantum teleportation involves that the quantum state of a particle could be transferred to another distant particle, without moving the two particles at all.

In 2014, Ronald Hanson and his fellow researchers from the Technical University Delft in the Netherlands, demonstrated the teleportation of information between two entangled quantum bits three metres apart.

On May 25, 2022 Hanson and his colleagues from the QuTech and Kavli Institute of Nanoscience at Delft University, published new research in the prestigious Nature journal on “Qubit teleportation between non-neighbouring nodes in a quantum network”.

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The experiment entailed the sending of information from one side of a quantum network to the other side.

The Delft researchers built a simple network containing a number of diamond-based qubits (quantum bits) arranged into three nodes: called Alice, Bob and Charlie.

There was no direct link between Alice and Charlie, only an indirect link each shared with Bob.

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But Alice and Charlie share quantum entanglement (the linking of two particles and sharing of a common unified quantum state, no matter how far apart the particles are in space).

Quantum entanglement means the information of the one cannot be measured without changing the state of the other.

When Charlie’s quantum state was changed, Alice’s state instantaneously changed because they became a single wave function.

Information thus “teleported” across Bob without passing through it.

Just as in science fiction teleportation, the state or information, disappears on the one side and re-appears on the other side. And since there is no direct connection between the distant nodes, the information does not travel the space in between and cannot get lost.

This recently published research from the Delft University researchers show promise for a future quantum internet.

An important property of a super-secure quantum internet is quantum entanglement with linked properties between objects that makes the teleportation of information between unconnected nodes possible.

One idea is to build a network of connected quantum bits (qubits), which are entangled with qubits elsewhere in the network rather than with the neighbouring nodes they are directly linked with.

Such a quantum internet could greatly improve privacy compared with current internet systems.

A quantum internet will offer truly security benefits, such as eavesdropping-proof communication or data servers that can never discover the source of data they are processing.

Many people have uploaded their lives to the internet or cloud. Sensitive information such as banking, medical records, work emails, social media, and dating profiles have been uploaded.

But with the arrival of quantum computing it is uncertain how long the encryption algorithms that are protecting our private information, will hold. Building a quantum internet is therefore of the utmost importance.

Quantum teleportation may in future prove to be the foundation of quantum communication.

Although this important Delft experiment is only one step towards the building of a quantum internet, it opens up a world of possibilities such as teleporting quantum information over large distances without a single chip, securely sharing confidential information, linking several quantum computers together to increase their computing power, and the use of highly precise, linked quantum sensors.

The Israeli physicist, Asher Peres, who died in 2005, was correct when he anticipated quantum teleportation.

When a reporter asked him if quantum teleportation would be able to transport the soul, as well the body, Peres replied: “Not the body, just the soul.”

Professor Louis CH Fourie is a professor at the University of the Western Cape.

Professor Louis CH Fourie is a professor at the University of the Western Cape, Twitter.

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