Artist’s impression of the quantum teleportation protocol in a network setting. Quantum information is being teleported between two non-neighbouring nodes in the network.
Credit: Scixel for QuTech.
Researchers in Delft have succeeded in teleporting quantum information across a rudimentary network. This first of its kind is an important step towards a future quantum internet. This breakthrough was made possible by a greatly improved quantum memory and enhanced quality of the quantum links between the three nodes of the network.
The researchers, working at QuTech—a collaboration between Delft University of Technology and the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO)—are publishing their findings today in the scientific journal Nature.
The power of a future quantum Internet is based on the ability to send quantum information (quantum bits) between the nodes of the network. This will enable all kinds of applications such as securely sharing confidential information, linking several quantum computers together to increase their computing capability, and the use of highly precise, linked quantum sensors.
Sending quantum information
The nodes of such a quantum network consist of small quantum processors. Sending quantum information between these processors is no easy feat. One possibility is to send quantum bits using light particles but, due to the inevitable losses in glass fibre cables, in particular over long distances, the light particles will very likely not reach their destination. As it is fundamentally impossible to simply copy quantum bits, the loss of a light particle means that the quantum information is irrecoverably lost.
Teleportation offers a better way of sending quantum information. The protocol for quantum teleportation owes its name to similarities with teleportation in science-fiction films: the quantum bit disappears on the side of the sender and appears on the side of the receiver. As the quantum bit therefore does not need to travel across the intervening space, there is no chance that it will be lost. This makes quantum teleportation an crucial technique for a future quantum Internet.
Good control over the system
In order to be able to teleport quantum bits, several ingredients are required: a quantum entangled link between the sender and receiver, a reliable method for reading out quantum processors, and the capacity to temporarily store quantum bits. Previous research at QuTech demonstrated that it is possible to teleport quantum bits between two adjacent nodes. The researchers at QuTech have now shown for the first time that they can meet the package of requirements and have demonstrated teleportation between non–adjacent nodes, in other words over a network. They teleported quantum bits from node “Charlie” to node “Alice”, with the help of an intermediate node “Bob”.
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