Researchers from Spain and SA successfully ‘teleport’ an image

  • A team of researchers led by Dr Bereneice Sephton have successfully “teleported” an image across a network.
  • The feat was accomplished through the use of entangled photons and a nonlinear detector.
  • While not real teleportation as a bright laser is required, this protocol comes close to the teleportation we’ve seen in works of fiction.

Those who watch enough science fiction will be familiar with the concept of teleportation where something is transmitted through space to a secondary location. It’s the stuff of fantasy except, it may be closer to reality than you think.

Researchers from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Spain have published a paper in Nature Communications that demonstrates the “teleportation-like transport of ‘patterns’ of light.”

The experiment was conducted by Dr Bereneice Sephton as part of her PhD studies at Wits. Image – Wits.

The experiment was conducted by Dr Bereneice Sephton as part of her PhD studies at Wits.

“Traditionally, two communicating parties physically send the information from one to the other, even in the quantum realm,” explains Professor Andrew Forbes, lead PI from Wits. “Now, it is possible to teleport information so that it never physically travels across the connection – a ‘Star Trek’ technology made real.”

Unfortunately, teleportation has so far only been demonstrated with three dimensional states (imagine a three pixel image) therefore needing additional entangled photons to reach higher dimensions.”

Okay, but what does this all mean if, like us, you’re not a quantum scientist?

Essentially, by “teleporting” data over a network you’re not sending the data but leveraging the concept of entanglement. Entanglement is a phenomenon where the quantum states of separated particles are identical. This state can be influenced by interactions with the environment which appears to be how this team of researchers is sending an image without physically sending the image.

The team uses the example of sending a fingerprint to your bank. Normally, you would have to go into the bank and that information gets put into a file that moves through the bank’s network.

“In the newly proposed quantum transport scheme, the bank sends a single photon (one of an entangled pair) with no information to the customer, who overlaps it on a nonlinear detector with the information that is to be sent. As a result, the information appears at the bank exactly as if it had been teleported there. No information is ever physically sent between the two parties, so interception is fruitless, while the quantum link connecting the parties is established by the exchange of quantum entangled photons,” reads a blog published by Wits.

While it’s close to teleportation, Forbes explains that it isn’t really teleportation because the protocol requires a bright laser beam to make the nonlinear detector efficient. However, should this change in future, this protocol would be closer to the teleportation we see in books and movies.

“We hope that this experiment showing the feasibility of the process motivates further advances in the nonlinear optics community through pushing the limits towards a full quantum implementation,” Dr Adam Vallés, a lead on the project from the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Barcelona said.

“We have to be cautious now, as this configuration could not prevent a cheating sender from keeping better copies of the information to be teleported, which means we could end up with many Mr Spock clones in the Star Trek world if that is what Scotty wanted. From a practical point of view, the configuration that we currently demonstrate can already be used to establish a high-dimensional secure channel for quantum communications between two parties, provided that the protocol does not need to be fed with single photons, as would be the case for quantum repeaters,” Vallés added.

The next step in the research the team will conduct will focus on quantum transport across an optical fibre network.

This is all incredibly impressive and we wish Sephton and her team of researchers the best in their research.

[Image – Shahadat Rahman on Unsplash]


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