We might be very close to getting a new kind of internet that is secure from pesky hackers, thanks to a major feat in particle physics.
Chinese scientists have set a record for distance traveled by entangled quantum particles, as they have created photons of light that react like twin particles and behave in the same fashion even when they are separated by great distances.
This principle is called quantum entanglement, and while it is quantum physics’ weirdest phenomena, it is also amazingly useful, thus making China’s distance record for quantum entanglement a massive feat. The astonishing experiment was led by Professor Jian-Wei Pan of Hefei University in China, where they managed to create a laser on a satellite 480 kilometers above the earth send entangled photons.
The photons were transmitted to two ground-based stations about 1200 kilometers apart, and amazingly this was achieved without breaking the link between the photons, as reported by the journal Science. This distance is 10 times greater than any previous record for entanglement, besides being the first time entangled photons have been created in space.
“It’s a huge, major achievement,” Thomas Jennewein, physicist at the University of Waterloo in Canada, told Science. “They started with this bold idea and managed to do it.”
Last August saw China send their first quantum satellite and the latest feat means we will see a lot more of these launches as the country looks to create a brand new system of communication relying on entanglement, which will be a super secure network using encryption techniques based on quantum communication.
Professor Ping Koy Lam from the ANU’s Department of Quantum Science spoke on the prospect,
“In physics we are trying, and we have demonstrated some encryption techniques that rely on the law of physics rather than the mathematical complexity and we call this quantum key distribution. For that to work you need to send laser beams that carry certain information, quantum information, and then you need the senders and the receivers to get together to find a protocol to secure the communication.”
The information sent using this technique can’t be hacked since it can’t be measured or cloned without destroying the data itself.
“We can show that this kind of quantum encryption works in a city radius or at most between two nearby cities,” Prof Lam said.
Add the possibility of sending photos to travel further in space since
“in space there’s nothing to attenuate light,”
and we have a very potent system indeed.
The latest experiment involved receiving photons in stations based in the mountains of Tibet. This helped the photons reach the center since the height reduces the amount of air (hurdles) fragile photons have to travel.
Exciting times ahead!