Dutch scientists have successfully teleported quantum data for the first time in a landmark teleportation experiment, which has paved the way for the teleportation of larger objects in the distant future.
Scientists are now closer than ever to disproving Albert Einstein's early disbelief in the theory of entanglement, in which particles separated by light-years can still appear to remain connected, with the state of one particle simultaneously affecting the state of another.
Einstein dismissed the phenomenon as "spooky action at a distance", but scientists have repeatedly claimed that it exists.
Now, researchers at the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience Delft have said they have managed to teleport quantum information stored in one section of a diamond to another, around three feet away.
Professor Ronald Hanson, who led the experiment, said that a Star Trek-style "beaming up" of humans through space is not impossible, as the laws of physics could potentially allow the teleportation of large objects.
''What we are teleporting is the state of a particle," he told the Telegraph. ''If you believe we are nothing more than a collection of atoms strung together in a particular way, then in principle it should be possible to teleport ourselves from one place to another.
"In practice it's extremely unlikely, but to say it can never work is very dangerous. I would not rule it out because there's no fundamental law of physics preventing it. If it ever does happen it will be far in the future," Prof Hanson added.
For the experiment, physicists transferred spin information a distance of three metres, using three entangled particles - a nitrogen atom locked in a diamond crystal and two electrons.
Four possible states were transmitted, with each corresponding to a qubit - units of quantum information and the quantum analogue of the classical bit - as reported by Sky News Australia.
With qubits separated by a distance of three metres, the researchers were able to observe and record the spin of one electron and see that reflected in the other qubit instantly.
According to the researchers, the results revealed they were able to achieve an unprecedented replication rate of 100% at the current distance.
"The main application of quantum teleportation is a quantum version of the internet, extending a global network that we can use to send quantum information," Prof Hanson explained.
"We have shown that it's possible to do this, and it works every time that you try. It provides the first building block of the future quantum internet. One application nearest to a real life application is secure communication," he told the New York Times.
In July, another experiment will see the teleportation of information between buildings, of a distance of over a kilometre.
"There is a big race going on between five or six groups to prove Einstein wrong," Prof Hanson told CNET. "There is one very big fish."
The research is published in the latest online edition of the journal Science.