Now, according to a paper published in the Jan. 23 issue of Science, a team of scientists from the Joint Quantum Institute (JQI) at the University of Maryland and the University of Michigan has joined the fun.
The current experiment marks the first in which information has traveled a significant distance — 1 m, or a little more than 3 ft. — between two isolated atoms. It’s also the first time the powers of a photon, which is good at traveling over long distances, and an atom, which is prized for its ability to retain information, have been jointly exploited.
Quantum-computing technology is currently being used to encrypt data, but it holds a lot more potential than that, if only because of its massive information-storage capacity. One of the marvelous little wrinkles of the quantum world is a condition known as superposition, in which a particle can occupy two states at the same time. (Don’t ask; it just can.) For this reason, a quantum bit, or qubit, can store two numbers at once. Each qubit added to a quantum computer doubles the size of the system, so if you want to know the capacity of a computer that contains 300 qubits, take the number 2 and multiply it by itself 300 times. “That’s more than the number of particles in the universe,” Monroe says.
The next step for the JQI team is to improve the photons’ precision and the rate of communication between the particles. What we won’t see soon — or ever, according to Monroe — is a contraption that can teleport humans from one point to another. Sorry, Captain Kirk, but beaming up is a pleasure strictly reserved for atoms. “There’s way too many atoms,” says Monroe. “At the other end of the transporter, you need to have some blob of atoms that represents Captain Kirk but has no information in it. I mean, what would that look like?” (Source)