Ring, Ring* 'Earth? It's space calling, on the quantum line'

Quantum satellite shatters entanglement record

Quantum satellite shatters entanglement record

Achieving quantum communication at such distances would enable the creation of secure worldwide communications networks, allowing two parties to communicate using a shared encryption key. One of his latest papers on quantum communication, which appears in Optica, shows that if you were willing to trust a third party to store your quantum keys (instead of having that third party have no knowledge in the entangled photon scenario), you could measure "quantum states" on satellites 38,000km away in space.

Quantum entanglement is a phenomenon in quantum physics, which is so confounding that Albert Einstein described it as "spooky action at a distance" in 1948. Theoretically. The vacuum of space should make it easier to send such messages, but in practice, clouds, dust and atmospheric turbulence meant that only one of ten million photon pairs created by the satellite's optics was transmitted successfully; however, this efficiency is orders of magnitude greater than the best achieved by fibre-based communication. With this success, China is taking establishing itself as the absolute leader in quantum communications.

The effect of the Chinese satellite, dubbed Micius, may be to quicken the pace of theose projects, particularly because it appears to have come off without a hitch.

Quantum communication is secure because any interference is detectable.

But, it's hard to distribute entangled particles - normally photons - over large distances.

In the new study, researchers used China's Micius satellite, which was launched a year ago, to transmit the entangled photon pairs.

An ethereal bond between two particles, entanglement is the most essential ingredient of a quantum network. That can be checked using a classic experiment called a Bell test.

Chinese scientists split a laser beam shot out of from Micus into two polarised states.

The team had to overcome many hurdles, including keeping the beams of photons focused on the ground stations as the satellite hurtled through space at almost 8 kilometers per second. The test confirmed entanglement at a statistical confidence of four standard deviations. The team had several ground stations spread far apart and a satellite.

Quantum entanglement can be explained with the following example: imagine you are a photon and you have a twin, another photon intimately connected since they day you were created. The research smashes the previous record of around 100km apart.

Due to the fact that the entangled photons can not be amplified as classical signals, new methods must be developed to reduce link attenuation in satellite-to-ground entanglement distribution. To perform quantum communication, scientists send entangled photons from place to place.

"I am really impressed by the result of the Chinese group", says Wolfgang Tittel, a physicist at the University of Calgary in Canada.

"Many people then thought it [was] a insane idea, because it was very challenging already doing the sophisticated quantum-optics experiments inside a well-shielded optical table", Pan told Live Science.

The satellite launched from Jiuquan Satellite launch Center last year, and the new findings mark a promising step forward in the two-year mission prove successful, which could be followed by a fleet of others if all goes well, according to Nature. "Many people thought it was a insane idea, because it was very challenging", he said.

For now, Pan feels vindicated about the first spacecraft's design.

The scientists are now working with satellite telecommunications company Tesat-Spacecom GmbH and others in the space industry to design a quantum network based on hardware already employed in space. This smashes the previous record for entanglement distribution, which only reached up to 100 kilometres. "They are now clearly the world leader in quantum satellites", he says.

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