Quantum Teleportation Is a Go!

By Eliza Strickland | January 23, 2009 3:07 pm

quantum teleportationResearchers have accomplished teleportation, though not of the “Beam me up, Scotty” variety. Instead, they sent information between two individual atoms of the element ytterbium, which were suspended in separate containers three feet apart. Because the quantum information instantly hops from one atom to the other without ever crossing the space between the two, scientists call the transfer “teleportation” [Science News].

Over the years, teleportation experiments have demonstrated that quantum states – for example, the spin of a particle or the polarization of a photon – can be teleported using a variety of methods. But the researchers behind the latest experiment … claim that this is the first time information has been teleported between two separate atoms in unconnected enclosures [MSNBC]. Researchers say that atoms are a better bet than photons for storing quantum information because they’re easier to hold on to, and say that their system could one day be harnessed for spy-proof communication using quantum cryptography, or for powerful quantum computers.

The befuddling process of quantum teleportation is made possible by the what Einstein called the “spooky” properties of quantum materials. Until it’s measured, an atom or photon can remain in an ambiguous state of all possible values simultaneously. Whenever a particle is measured, though, this range of possibilities “collapses” into a single, distinct value. The original, uncommitted state is lost, and it’s this ability to hold multiple values at once that gives [quantum materials] such potential for high-performance computing [Science News].

As researchers report in Science, the feat of derring-do was accomplished by first sequestering two charged ytterbium atoms in vacuum chambers three feet apart. Researchers then zapped one of the ions with a microwave pulse that put the ion’s electrons into a state of quantum uncertainty–using a binary framework, researchers say it was both a 1 and a 0 simultaneously. Next they directed laser pulses lasting just a trillionth of a second at both ions, causing them to give off one photon (packet of light) apiece. The wavelengths, or colors, of these photons depended on which states the electrons were in. Crossing these photons in a beamsplitter sometimes entwined the states of those electrons, a bizarre quantum phenomenon called entanglement [Science News].

Researchers determined whether the photons had become entangled by using a pair of detectors that triggered an alert only if the two photons were in a complementary state. If they were, that meant that the ytterbium ions were also entangled. Researchers then looked at the ion they had zapped, causing it to collapse out of its state of quantum uncertainty into one of two states, 1 or 0. Because the two ions were entangled, knowing the state of one gave researchers information about the state of the other. No information was sent directly from A to B. Instead, quantum entanglement was used to put the information into ion A and get it out again through ion B [MSNBC].

There’s still a ways to go before this technology has any practical application, however. The main problem is that the photons from the ytterbium ions only reach their fibre-optic cable once every 100 million tries — about once every ten minutes. “That’s pretty sucky,” [physicist Paul] Kwiat says. “It is embarrassing,” admits [study coauthor Chris] Monroe. It took three solid weeks of graduate students running the experiment around the clock to gather the necessary data for this paper. Still, when the photons did find their way into the cable, the success rate for the rest of the process was an impressive 90% [Nature News].

Related Content:
80beats: Quantum Cryptography Takes a Step Towards Mainstream Use
80beats: Harnessing Quantum Weirdness to Make Spy-Proof Email
DISCOVER: Teleportation? Very Possible. Next Up: Time Travel.
DISCOVER: Future Tech follows the race to make unbreakable codes through quantum cryptography

Image: University of Maryland

  • Phys

    If true, this would apparently violate causality as all proofs that show EPR doesn’t violate causality rest on the fact that no information is transmitted between particles.

  • George

    Professor Michio Kaku: “Teleportation and forcefields possible within
    decades… What is unthinkable today might not be forbidden in a few
    decades or centuries… We will have the power of the gods.”
    Teleportation and forcefields could become scientific realities within decades, and time travel will also be possible in the future, according to one of the world’s leading physicists:

  • Fuat

    I prefer a wormhole machine instead of quantum teleportation.
    You would not need to be separated into particles to work! :-)

  • http://www.DonMonroe.info Don Monroe

    In response to Phys:

    This teleportation does not violate causality any more than other, more direct tests of quantum mechanics do. In this case, before the quantum state can be considered teleported, the researchers have to transfer some classical information between the two ions: the result of a measurement on one ion is used to choose which of two manipulations to perform on the other. Teleportation thus requires both entanglement of the ions and transmission of classical information, so it could not go faster than the speed of light. However, even though no one has a way to transmit information using these effects, it sure seems as if “something” is moving faster than the light, as has been directly demonstrated in other experiments.

  • Bruce Voigt

    I truly have done two successful experiments in Telaportation where I have moved specific matter from one sealed jar to another sealed jar. In trying to improve on the last experiment it had failed scaring me. I decided to leave this alone until I would be better prepared.

    Last night I watched the CROP CIRCLE movie SIGNS staring Mel Gibson. Phony but enjoyable. I wonder how this movie would have turned out if it had not been for circumstances.

    SIGNS was filmed in Ladner British Columbia Canada.

    I had my trailer parked on Indian land leased by farmers and things were fine until one day two cops showed up to advise me that a film crew would be showing up in the corn field across the road and I should move immediately. These guys were not nice and gave me three hours to vacate. I tried to explain that I had an experiment in progress and that I would appreciate a little more time. As I said they were not nice.

    I franticly prepared to move and about ten minutes early the bullies showed up and one of them walked over to were I had dismantled my telaporation experiment (this experiment was in transition and in prematurity the subject was lost).

    As much as I disliked this person I was concerned that the lost subject just may have found a new host. What could I have said to this man! I did mention to several people of this area to watch for news the likes of A Strange Thing Found in Delta Officer!

    Had I not been evicted I would have been in conversation with the film crew and I just know this would have turned out to be a great movie.

    Bruce Voigt

  • Bruce Voigt

    Now, do you still think that the Philadelphia Experiment was abandoned!

  • http://star-roadliner.com biker dude

    for the scientist who may be reading… I will so volunteer for any tests you have in mind.

  • Chris

    This all happens because of “quantum entanglement,” i.e. because the two particles in question have interacted at some point in time. What about all the OTHER particles each of them must have interacted with at all points in the past? Shouldn’t a huge flood of information about THOSE particles’ quantum states be constantly perturbing both of the particles used in the experiment? If not, WHY not? Because only the most recent interaction counts? Because no one is OBSERVING the previous-interacting particles because that all happened outside/before the experiment? Information is teleported by collapsing the wave function of one of the particles and causing the other to collapse at the same time — so how did the wave functions become UNcollapsed in the first place? Conversely, can these same two particles ever again be reused in this same experiment? Does any of this suggest that there’s NO SUCH THING as “the same two electrons” outside the bounds of this moment in this experiment?

  • Chris

    Excuse me, I meant “the same two PHOTONS,” not electrons. Also, perhaps “collapsing the wave function” is not the right term; I apologize if my terminology is a little off.

  • DM

    Bruce, are you off your meds? I’m thinking perhaps you should seek help…soon.

  • Sven G.

    As I’ve said on a different site lauding the same experiment:


    The sample space 1:100,000,000 (success:failure of ‘coincidence’) is entirely useless, and can be written off as sheer coincidence. It is mentioned that these separate ‘qbits’/atoms were held in vacuum by electromagnetic force, which in and of itself could alter the state of both atoms, and at the same time be insufficient in keeping out significant stimuli (other atoms, electrons, etc).


    “To teleport the qubit, Olmschenk’s team first linked the fates of two charged atoms of ytterbium, which were suspended in a vacuum chamber by electric fields. Zapping one of the atoms with a microwave pulse excited an electron in that atom, thus putting that electron into a mixture of two possible states. Researchers then zapped each atom with an ultrafast laser that caused each atom to emit a single photon of light. The wavelengths, or colors, of these photons depended on which states the electrons were in. Crossing these photons in a beamsplitter sometimes entwined the states of those electrons, a bizarre quantum phenomenon called entanglement.”

    [sumarized: two separate atoms. one is ‘excited’ via microwaves. both are subjected to more EM radiation to produce (supposedly) 1 photon of light. Those two rays of light are *combined* in a crystal, and the resultant color of light is used to infer the states of the two separate atoms]

    ” When two particles become entangled, their separate quantum identities get blended so that a single equation represents both. So entangling the two electrons caused the original qubit — the unknown, unresolved mixture of two possible states — to become essentially shared between the two atoms. ”

    The resultant beam of light is the combination in light output from both atoms. This is in no way indicative that the fates of both atoms is intertwined/entangled, but rather that because the output of light from both is combined into one ray of light, of course the *OUTPUT* is the combined result of both. The atoms themselves are not shown to be ‘entangled’ whatsoever, only the artificially combined output is contingent on them both.

    “The researchers then measured the first atom, thus destroying the delicate quantum information it contained, and also destroying the entanglement. That left the original qubit intact in only the second, recipient atom, completing the teleportation.”

    The entanglement never existed in the individual atoms. It existed in the artificial connection of their output. It never existed to begin with.

    “While the work marks a fundamental achievement in manipulating quantum information, Eugene Polzik, a physicist at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, notes that the efficiency of the procedure is still too low to be useful. Currently, only about one out of every 100 million attempts results in a successful entanglement, though Olmschenk says this rate could be significantly improved.”

    As already mentioned, they can’t even get their artificially self-supporting experiment to work more than 1/100,000,000 of the time. Not only does the conclusion (entanglement) not follow from the experiment, but the astronomically low success rate is not statistically important enough to suggest anything whatsoever. (save that they’re grasping at straws here, in a big way)

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