The word “teleportation” is often used in the science fiction genre in literature to describe the near-instantaneous movement of an object, or person, to another location without travelling the physical distance. This concept is usually one that is mocked by many, and although the description of teleportation in works of fiction is not entirely accurate, there is some truth to it. It is not yet possible to teleport people, but scientists are able to convey messages, or quantum data, from one particle to another, by changing its properties/characteristics. The term “quantum entanglement” describes such a phenomenon – each particle in a pair displays the same properties as the other; it is impossible to describe, and consider, the quantum states of each particle independently.
Entangled particles have the same properties, such as spin, position and momentum. Even if separated great distances, it is as if one particle knows the properties of the other – no matter which of the properties are changed, or on which particle these changes occur. Due to this phenomenon, scientists can manipulate nearly any characteristics of a particle, which instantly sends that information, through largely unknown means, to its paired (entangled or previously entangled) particle. This is an area of active research and still has a long way to go before we can begin to understand the concepts behind this strange phenomenon.
The nature of entangled particles is what originally led to the thought of quantum teleportation. Physicists, such as Albert Einstein and Nathan Rosen, were initially baffled by the quantum entanglement phenomenon, due to the fact that they thought it violated the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics. The uncertainty principle – a concept learnt during our Physics tuition class on Quantum Physics, states that the position and momentum of a particle cannot both be known at the same point in time. For instance, if one knows the position of a particle, it is impossible to accurately determine the momentum of that particle. However, experiments done by subsequent generations of research teams proved that it did not violate the uncertainty principle, but this still did not explain the nature of quantum entanglement. A group of six scientists later applied the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen effect, solving the major obstacle that prevented them from starting research in quantum teleportation.
The transfer of quantum information is a somewhat similar concept to the binary of computers – this data type only consists of ones and zeros, whereas quantum data can have an infinite number of data types. It is therefore entirely possible that quantum data may be one of the next methods of communication or data processing – since it is superior, over contemporary methods, in countless ways.