Teleportation has been used as a plot device for many science fiction stories for decades. While human teleportation is still confined to the stories and television, teleportation has been accomplished in research facilities all around the world. It's all thanks to quantum entanglement.
Different Types of Teleportation
When discussing teleportation, it is important to define the term. There are three types of distinct teleportation. The first type of teleportation is using an external device, such as a wormhole, therefore traveling to another area instantaneously. The second is where molecules are disassembled and then reassembled somewhere else. This way is commonly found in fiction, most famously Star Trek and remains impossible in the real world. However, the last type of teleportation can, and has, been achieved. This kind of teleportation is where an object is scanned, the information transmitted to another location, and then the object is created again out of new materials. While this type of teleportation has been found to be possible, it has not yet been achieved with a human. The idea has caused much philosophical discussion. If your body is destroyed, that information transmitted elsewhere and then reassembled, is that still you?
For now, scientists have been able to perform this type of teleportation using information in the form of protons. In 2017, Chinese researchers were able to send a small amount of information from Tibet to a satellite that was in orbit around the Earth. The researchers were able to send the quantum state of a photon, with information about its polarization, 1400 kilometers above Earths surface, easily beating the previous record for the furthest teleportation. While this was a feat in itself, more importantly, the team showcased a practical system for long-distance quantum communications which could make online communications more secure.
Quantum teleportation works by using a well-known property of quantum mechanics known as quantum entanglement. The term denotes the moment in which two or more quantum particles are forced to hold mutually exclusive states. Therefore, knowing one of the particles states simultaneously determines the other particles state. This principle is independent of distance and therefore can be harnessed to create a teleportation method.
In principle, this means that as long as there is enough material in the place of travel, quantum entanglement can be used to teleport an object between two quantum particles. Once an object is observed at one end of the system, the information can be sent between the particles, thereby teleporting that object to another area. This is assuming that the object is included in the entanglement.
While it is easy to get excited about the possibilities of this type of teleportation, it should be noted that the ability to teleport large objects is extremely difficult and not likely to happen soon. The main challenge with quantum teleportation is the ability to keep particles entangled for long length of time. Currently, technology is only able to teleport objects which are smaller that a few atoms, but it has been replicated in labs all around the globe. With new records broken every year, this is just the beginning of science’s venture into the world of science fiction.