The idea of real teleportation became something to talk about in the 1990s when scientists speculated it was possible to use quantum physics to teleport matter. Since then, there has been a lot of work towards it a reality.
Teleportation has been tried and successfully achieved in some respects in quantum optics laboratories - quantum teleportation, however, is the teleportation of information, not matter.
Although the name is inspired by the teleportation commonly used in fiction, there is no relationship outside the name, because quantum teleportation concerns only the transfer of information. Quantum teleportation is not a form of transport, but of communication; it provides a way of transporting a qubit from one location to another, without having to move a physical particle along with it. (Wikipedia)
Quantum teleportation was already possible to a certain extent, but it seems researchers in China have taken a new step forward:
They have successfully teleported a photon from Earth to an orbiting satellite in space over 311 miles away.
The satellite known as Micius is a photo sensitive receiver that has the ability to detect the quantum states of a single photon, built specifically to test teleportation. It’s the first time teleportation has been used to transport a photon.
The scientists told the MIT Review that the significance of this achievement is clear, especially when you consider in the past, teleportation of photons could only be done for 100 kilometers distance. Photon loss as a result of optical fibers was one of the biggest challenges but the Chinese researchers seem to have overcome this.
But what exactly is teleportation? It’s not what most science fiction movies would have you believe.
Quantum teleportation is a situation in which quantum entanglement is used to form one set of quantum objects at the same time and space from another set. In other words, the quantum objects share the very same existence. The same existence will continue even if the photons or the quantum objects are separated - it won’t matter how far away from each other they are.
The importance of this is simple. The link between the two photons can be used to transmit information. In this particular breakthrough by the Chinese scientists, they created entangled pairs of photons on earth. The photons were created at the rate of 4,000 per second. They were then beamed towards the satellite orbiting 311 miles away while the initial photon remained on the ground. The team then measured both the photons on the ground and the ones on orbit. The Chinese researchers confirmed that there was entanglement.
It’s a remarkable breakthrough, but it’s important to note this technology still has massive limitations.
Although teleporting photons is now considered possible, for larger objects it’s still considered virtually impossible.
There’s still a long way to go, but the fact scientists were able to teleport photons into space successfully indicates how far we’ve come from thinking the mere concept of teleportation to be impossible.
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” - Arthur C. Clark