Scientist Teleport Particles a Few Meters, Beaming Up Kirk Still Far Off

Teleportation is no longer science fiction. If that information is hard to swallow check this out: A U.S. science team has successfully teleported a bunch of Ytterbium metal ions across their laboratory. For real.

Previous "teleportation" attempts have been limited to working on single ions or a photon over very short ranges. But photons simply can't be stored, and the ions were separated by mere microns. So both systems were far from what we think of as teleportation.

But the University of Maryland team's new method works on larger bits of matter—ions of the metal Ytterbium.

They place two ions in an electromagnetic chamber, and stimulate each with a laser beam. This makes them release a photon of light each that carries an image of the quantum state of the ion—the quantum state is a physical "list" of exactly what the particle's like and what it's doing. And when they combine those photons in a special optical device, the second ion becomes a complete copy of the first.

If you made it through that chunk of science you'll see that the system is more of a replicator/teleporter combination rather than just a teleporter. The clever bit is that the process works over several meters, and increasing the distance is relatively easy with "repeater stations" between the transmit and receive points.

The technique is actually more likely to be used as way of transmitting sensitive information using the super-secure methods of quantum cryptography, or in so-called quantum computing than for ever teleporting real-sized objects. That's for a number of reasons, chief among which is that the data rate is currently very slow, about one successful ion teleport every ten minutes. So even if it were possible, moving a Captain Kirk-sized object would take an astonishingly long time...about 1x10^27 hours, or roughly a million billion times as old as the universe itself.

[via New Scientist]

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  • Kit Eaton

    @James: <grin> I suspect they either know where they are with these experiments, or where they're going--but not both.</grin>

  • James Shewmaker

    So Kit, are they planning on focusing next on quantity of particles or quality of teleportation. < grin >