New Quantum-Entanglement Record Could Spur Hack-Proof Communications

Quantum satellite shatters entanglement record

The distance between the orbiting satellite and the two ground stations varies from 500 km to 2,000 km.

In a new study published online today (June 15) in the journal Science, researchers report the successful distribution of entangled photon pairs to two locations on Earth separated by 747.5 miles (1,203 km).

Till now efforts to entangle quantum particles, such as photons, have been limited to distances of about 100 km. The result is an outstanding landmark in the human history of communication and physical science, and reaches far and more.

The 600-kilogram payload now onboard the Chinese satellite that is producing pairs of quantum entangled photons. The crystal can generate as many as 6 million pairs of photons at any given time however the two designated ground stations, which are located 750 miles apart, are only able to detect around one par per second.

While China is behind United States and Russian Federation in terms of space technology, the U.S. Defense Department has expressed concern that it will utilize its space technology to prevent rival countries from using space-based assets in the event of a crisis, as reported by Space Intel Report.

After five years of development, the Chinese Academy of Sciences launched the world's first quantum satellite, called Micius, in August 2016. Colleagues thought that it was too ambitious, he says, because it produced the entangled photons in space and required two photon-firing systems.

China has carried out the first quantum entanglement from space, according to the team behind the project, in what promises to be a significant step towards a new era of "hack-proof" communication. If you envisage a quantum network, the question is how to cover large distances and that can not be done with glass fibres on the ground.

China is not the only country working on sending quantum messages. Researchers hope to create a basic quantum-based communications network, one that could vastly affect the way computers process information or how quickly and stably the Internet functions in the future.

"By developing an ultrabright spaceborne two-photon entanglement source and high-precision acquiring, pointing, and tracking technology, we established entanglement between two single photons separated by 747.5 miles, with an average two-photon count rate of 1.1 Hz and state fidelity of 0.869", the scientists said.

Regarding quantum networking or internet, Jennewein described Thursday's quantum experiment result as "a very important milestone, because disseminating quantum entanglement is a first (and most important) building block". The technology of quantum cryptography, as it's called, lets users spot any intruder on the channel, who would actually change the entangled photons through his presence.

"Going forward, it is not very hard to speculate that we will see the distribution of quantum entanglement on a global scale one day", said Jennewein.

"The obtained effective link efficiency is orders of magnitude higher than that of the direct bidirectional transmission of the two photons through telecommunication fibers", Juan Yin, lead author and physicist at the Science and Technology University of China in Shanghai, said. But the implications are that quantum-based communications in the future will be instantaneous and theoretically unhackable, as any third party attempting to listen in would cause immediate and detectable interference to the entanglement. Launched in August 2016, Micius is equipped with specialised quantum tools and is situated almost 500 kilometres above the Earth's surface.

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