Quantum entanglement is a curious physical property of our universe where paired quantum objects, regardless where they are, instantly reflect one another. Albert Einstein called this “Spooky action at a distance.” Photons (light particles) are quantum objects. Physicists have experimentally confirmed this entanglement phenomenon. One way is to split a photon into two lower-energy photons, and the resulting pair becomes entangled. (Here is a good explanation.) Photons have various properties. When a property in the entangled pair is altered, the other’s same property reflects instantaneously. Physicists have demonstrated separating the entangled photons using fiber optics cables. Again, over some distance, the entanglement property holds.
Imagine a quantum entangled particle is placed on the moon and it’s partner is placed on earth. Sending information between the moon and earth would be instantaneous. For many people who followed the 2009 Mars rover, they will likely know it takes a very long time for new control signals to reach it. Quantum entanglement may hold the key to solve that latency issue.
In 2010, a team of Chinese physicists lead by Juan Yin, at the National Laboratory for Physical Sciences at Microscale and Department of Modern Physics, at the University of Science and Technology of China in Shanghai in conjunction with Chinese Academy of Sciences, set a world record of 16 kilometers in distancing entangled particles.
This same team has now made another major breakthrough – 97 kilometers! In their May 10, 2012 paper, “Teleporting independent qubits through a 97 km free-space channel,” the team demonstrated sending 1100 entangled photons 97 km away over a lake. Photons over any medium could easily get destroyed. The team has invented a way to preserve them over such a large distance.
As their paper states, an application for this is also satellite communications:
Moreover, the high-frequency and high-accuracy acquiring, pointing and tracking (APT) technique developed in our experiment can be directly utilized for future satellite-based quantum communication.
Nobel Prize for Physics?
Remember, once the entangled pair are apart, information exchange between them cannot be intercepted. Information between the pair can be passed regardless of distance and medium. Communications faster than the speed of light?!
MIT’s Technology Review has picked up on this breakthrough. This is an exciting technology to follow.