NASA achieves long-distance ‘quantum teleportation’ computer network but not for ‘beam me up Scotty’

quantum computer data network
Quantum computer data networks are far more secure than today’s internet. Pic credit: Pete Linforth/Pixabay

NASA has officially confirmed that a team of scientists and researchers have achieved sustained, high-fidelity ‘quantum teleportation’. Although the process hints at materials instantly traversing large distances, the breakthrough will help in building tougher encryptions and secure communications networks.

Scientists working with NASA, along with researchers in the computer networking, encryption, and data integrity fields, have successfully demonstrated long-distance ‘quantum teleportation’. They have essentially succeeded in effecting the transfer of units of quantum information known as qubits from one place to another at speeds faster than light.

What exactly is long-distance ‘quantum teleportation’ and how will it help secure computer networks, the internet, and personal data?

A large team at NASA’s jet propulsion laboratory successfully demonstrated sustained, long-distance teleportation of qubits of photons (quanta of light). Researchers teleported the qubits 44 kilometers or 27 miles over a standard fiber-optic network using state-of-the-art single-photon detectors.

Apart from the fancy photon detectors, the researchers built the system with off-the-shelf components. Quantum teleportation is essentially a ‘disembodied’ transfer of quantum states from one location to another.

Keeping complex mathematics aside, quantum states of entanglement means two particles, even over great distances, are inextricably linked to each other. Hence, if the state of the particles, or in this case, encoded information, is altered for one, the other instantly reflects the change, irrespective of the distance between them.

The successful experiment paves the way for commercial computer networks wherein instant data storage, precision sensing, and secure computing, over great distances, is within the realm of reality. In other words, commercial deployment of such computer networks is not just feasible but viable as well.

Quantum computing and communication systems are far faster and virtually unbreakable than today’s regular networks. This is because these new-age networks rely on light photons rather than regular computer code to communicate. Needless to add, the traditional code is vulnerable to hacks.

Quantum internet service needs error tolerance and the ability to mitigate problems:

Quantum computing has made tremendous progress in the last decade. However, quantum teleportation has always been vulnerable to environmental interference.

Such an internet service can be disrupted easily by messing with the ‘fidelity’ of teleportation. Almost all modern-day computer networks are highly fault-tolerant. This means they can keep on functioning reliably, albeit slowly, in case of problems.

The new experiment has enhanced the fault-tolerance of quantum computer information networks to more than 90 percent. Simply put, the resulting qubit signal was about 90 percent identical to the original message. Moreover, researchers sent the message from 27 miles away.

The experimental system comprises three nodes that interact with one another to trigger a sequence of qubits. The system passes a signal from one place to the other instantly, at speeds faster than that of light.

The efficacy and practicality of such computer data networks are still a few years away. However, policymakers have already begun formulating networks and policies for these “faster-than-light” networks.

Such networks would invariably be very expensive in the formative years. Hence, only governments would initially deploy them for syncing sensitive information. But, with the advancement in technology and mass manufacturing of hardware, a quantum computer network should be available in the near future.

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