June 17, 2002: Australians pioneer teleportation
Scientists at the Australian National University have developed a system which could be the fore-runner to a real-life "beam me up Scotty" teleportation unit saying that that they have found a way to teleport a laser beam.
Dr Ben Bulcher said studies have allowed them to break down light particles and then re-establish them in another place.
"Charged particles of light, or photons, produced by a laser beam can be destroyed and recreated in every perfect detail, somewhere else," Dr Bulcher said on Sky News Australia.
The team achieved the teleportation using the highest technology including lasers, electronics and crystals.
"We don't know how we can do it with atoms yet, we can do it with light but atoms are far more complex physical structures" Dr Bulcher said.
But transporting one atom might only be a few years away with over forty companies racing to make that breakthrough around the world.
The technology, which involves destroying the laser beam and exactly reconstructing it a meter away from its point of origin, could be used to make encoded information 100 per cent secure, a boon for finance and defence industries.
"At the moment if you are doing purchases over the internet you are relying on cryptographic techniques that are based on very large numbers - computers can break these codes. Quantum Cryptography based on this technology will provide untapppable communication," said Dr Bulcher.
Scientists at computer giants IBM and Hewlett Packard are also working on teleportation experiments with a view to creating a quantum computer that could solve problems a billion times faster than today's technology.
Dr Ping Koy Lam, leader of the 12-member team that engineered the breakthrough at the Australian National University, said although his team had teleported the beam just one meter, in theory it was possible over kilometres.
"What we have done is taken a beam of laser light and completely destroyed that beam, then make measurements of the destroyed beam, walk over to the other side of the lab and then reconstruct an exact replica," Dr Lam said.
It takes 30 billionths of one second to teleport the laser beam one metre, with success indicated by computer.
Although the teleportation of people is still a distant dream, Dr Lam said his team hoped to teleport an atom or small group of atoms in three to five years.
"At the moment we don't know how to teleport a single atom and a typical human being has 10 to the 17th atoms, which is one followed by 27 zeros," he said.
"In theory there is nothing stopping us. But the complexity of the problem means that no one is thinking seriously about this at the moment."
The breakthrough expands on research conducted by Albert Einstein and brings a theory developed by scientists at IBM in 1993 into reality. Despite several groups around the world racing to crack the technology, Dr Lam said his team was the first to teleport a laser beam with 100 per cent reliability.
The experiment was made possible by funding from the Australian research council to the tune of $2 million since 1998. Science Minister Peter McGauran said Dr Lam's team had brought the world into a "breathtaking new era of science", with Australia leading the field.