A team of researchers in China has “entangled” two clouds of atoms via a 50km (31-mile) optical fibre – a breakthrough that could help make quantum internet technology a reality, according to a paper published in the journal Nature on Thursday.
Quantum entanglement is a physical phenomenon that has puzzled and fascinated scientists for decades: for any pair of entangled particles, however far apart they are, changes in one particle’s quantum state will instantly affect the other’s.
A “quantum internet”, founded on this mysterious entangling ability, could fundamentally change information technology and society as a whole.
For instance, it could pose a problem for international spying efforts such as the Prism Project or the “Five Eyes” alliance. That is because, with the particles entangled, any eavesdropping attempt would inevitably generate a physical disturbance that would alert the sender or receiver.
It would also improve the precision of measurements and satellite navigation because clocks could be more finely synchronised, with computers around the world working simultaneously on the task.
And it could even change our understanding of the universe, with sensors – linked by the quantum network – potentially able to detect gravitational waves from stars colliding in distant galaxies.