While Scotty likely won’t be beaming anyone “up” in the near future scientists are reaching ever so much closer to quantum teleportation. In a new test a group of researchers were able to reach between two protons at a distance equivalent to New York City from Philadelphia.
Unlike Star Trek this new process shifts only the quantum state of a single photon and still only transfers data near the speed of light.
The process is completed using the phenomenon known as entanglement in which quantum particles share an invisible link across space. According to Scientific American:
“Two entangled photons, for instance, can have correlated, opposite polarization states—if one photon is vertically polarized, for instance, the other must be horizontally polarized. But, thanks to the intricacies of quantum mechanics, each photon’s specific polarization remains undecided until one of them is measured. At that instant the other photon’s polarization snaps into its opposing orientation, even if many kilometers have come between the entangled pair.”
Unlike Star Trek the process requires that each side of the teleportation process already have one of the entangled photons which means simply grabbing an object and moving it has not yet been achieved.
The process also is not quick, for example after researcher one begins the quantum transportation researcher 2 is left with a garbled form of their own proton which can only be retrieved once again after they adjust its state based on measurements from researcher one.
The biggest breakthrough could come in the form of breaking the no-cloning theorem. That theory states that you can not perfectly copy a quantum object, however quantum teleportation does not attempt to company material as much as change the quantum information from one point to another while destroying the original.
Scientists hope to one day use quantum entanglement to create superfast and secure quantum computers or possibly to enable secure communications over long-ranges.