Teleporting atoms and molecules, and maybe even larger objects, has become a real possibility for the first time, now that physicists have suggested a method that in theory could be used to ?entangle? any kind of particle.
Quantum entanglement is the property that allows two particles to behave as one, no matter how far apart they are. If you measure the state of one particle, you instantly determine the state of the other. This could eventually allow us to teleport objects by transferring their properties instantly from one place to another.
Until now, physicists have only been able to entangle photons, electrons and atoms, using different methods in each case. Atoms are entangled by forcing them to interact inside an optical trap, while photons are made to interact with a crystal. ?These schemes are very specific,? says Sougato Bose of the University of Oxford. But Bose and Dipankar Home, of the Bose Institute in Calcutta, have now demonstrated a single mechanism that could be used to entangle any kind of particle. To entangle the spins of two electrons, scientists need to make sure they?re identical in all respects but their spin. Then they would shoot the electrons simultaneously into a beam splitter. This device splits each electron into a quantum state called a superposition, which gives it an equal probability of travelling down either of two paths. Only when you try to detect the electron do you know which path it took. If you split two electrons simultaneously, both paths could have one electron each (which will happen half of the time) or either path could have both.
Bose and Home have shown mathematically that whenever one electron is detected in each path, they will be entangled. Previously, the photons used in these experiments were already entangled in another way, before they reached the beam splitter. ?One of the advances we have made is that these two particles could be from completely independent sources,? says Bose.
Any theory that expands the range of particles that can be entangled is important, says Anton Zeilinger, of the University of Vienna. Entangling massive particles would mean they could then be used for quantum cryptography, computing and even teleportation of larger objects.
?It would be fascinating,? he says. ?The possibility that you can teleport not just quantum states of photons, but also of more massive particles, that in itself is an interesting goal.?
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