From flip phones to automated doors and video calls, Star Trek has predicted some of the greatest technological inventions of our times, for the pleasure of all sci-fi lovers. Now, scientists say that even teleportation could become reality.
While in the series, characters could be teleported quickly via "transporters", the process is quickly reaching such a stage in our physical world and may be a bit more complex to achieve.
A team led by Alexander Szameit, professor at the Jena University in Germany, relied on the concept of quantum teleportation to investigate if actual teleportation could be possible, thanks to a series of experiments with lasers.
Quantum teleportation is a physical concept that was described for the first time more than 20 years ago. The idea is that quantum information carried in elementary particles such as light particles or protons can be transmitted instantly from one point to another with the help of classical communications technology, such as optical fibre. This is made possible by the fact that such elementary particles can exist in different place at the same time, and so information can be transmitted between then without any loss of time.
Encoding information in laser's light
In their recent study, published in the Laser and Phototonics review, the scientists however show that teleportation may be possible outside this quantum particles realm.
They carried out an experiment using laser beams, encoding the information they wished to teleport to a specific property of the laser's light.
"As can be done with the physical states of elementary particles, the properties of light beams can also be entangled. You link the information you would like to transmit to a particular property of the light "explains Dr Marco Ornigotti, a member of Prof Szameit's team.
For the purpose of this study, information was encoded within one of the polarisation direction of the laser's light. This information was then transmitted to the shape of the laser beam. In their particular case, the physicists have encoded some information in a particular polarisation direction of the laser light, and have transmitted this information to the shape of the laser beam, using the principles of quantum teleportation.
Although their experience doesn't allow information to travel long distances, it is transmitted fully and instantly, without any loss of time. The scientists therefore believe that teleportation of information is in theory possible in our physical world, using the properties of quantum particles.