Telecommunications

Quantum entanglement demonstrated on tiny CubeSat in orbit

Quantum entanglement demonstra...
The SpooQy-1 CubeSat being released into orbit from the ISS in June 2019
The SpooQy-1 CubeSat being released into orbit from the ISS in June 2019
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The SpooQy-1 CubeSat being released into orbit from the ISS in June 2019
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The SpooQy-1 CubeSat being released into orbit from the ISS in June 2019
The miniaturized device that produces pairs of entangled photons, onboard a CubeSat called SpooQy-1
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The miniaturized device that produces pairs of entangled photons, onboard a CubeSat called SpooQy-1
A CubeSat called SpooQy-1 can produce pairs of entangled photons
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A CubeSat called SpooQy-1 can produce pairs of entangled photons
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Researchers have managed to demonstrate quantum entanglement on a small satellite orbiting Earth. The team developed a miniaturized device that can produce pairs of photons that are inextricably linked, which could help launch a fast and secure quantum internet.

Quantum entanglement is the eerie phenomenon where two particles can become so entwined that changing the properties of one will affect the other – no matter how far apart they are. In theory, they could be on opposite sides of the universe and still communicate instantaneously.

But that raises some uneasy physics questions. After all, nothing is supposed to be able to travel faster than light, yet that information apparently does. The idea so unnerved Einstein that he referred to it as “spooky action at a distance.”

As counterintuitive as it is though, quantum entanglement has been reliably observed in experiments for decades. And now, researchers at the National University of Singapore have squeezed the mechanism down even further.

The new mini-satellite is named SpooQy-1, no doubt a reference to Einstein’s famous quote on the subject. It carries a device that can produce pairs of photons that are quantum entangled, by shining a blue laser diode onto non-linear crystals.

The miniaturized device that produces pairs of entangled photons, onboard a CubeSat called SpooQy-1
The miniaturized device that produces pairs of entangled photons, onboard a CubeSat called SpooQy-1

SpooQy-1 isn’t the first quantum satellite – that honor belongs to China’s Micius – but it is by far the smallest. Micius is a full-sized satellite, weighing 600 kg (1,323 lb). Meanwhile, SpooQy-1 is a CubeSat, weighing less than 2.6 kg (5.7 lb) and measuring just 20 x 10 cm (7.9 x 3.9 in).

Micius was great for showing that quantum communication via satellite is viable, even managing to repeatedly break quantum teleportation distance records by transmitting entangled photons over thousands of kilometers.

But in order to make a truly global quantum internet, a network of quantum satellites would be needed. Ideally they’d be smaller and cheaper to make and launch, and that’s where SpooQy-1 comes in.

The team designed and tested the CubeSat’s instrument to make sure that it could reliably produce entangled pairs of photons, while being smaller, lighter and more energy efficient. Importantly, it also had to be able to withstand the extremes of a space launch.

Sure enough, SpooQy-1 was able to continue producing entangled photon pairs after temperature swings between -10 °C and 40 °C (14 °F and 104 °F).

“In the future, our system could be part of a global quantum network transmitting quantum signals to receivers on Earth or on other spacecraft,” says Aitor Villar, lead author of the study. “These signals could be used to implement any type of quantum communications application, from quantum key distribution for extremely secure data transmission to quantum teleportation, where information is transferred by replicating the state of a quantum system from a distance.”

The research was published in the journal Optica.

Source: The Optical Society

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6 comments
MemoriaTechnica
This is fascinating stuff. I first read about the IBM Quantum Teleportation Project over a decade ago and it's now looking close to real world [or even out of this world] applications. When the time comes that we have humans living on Mars, we should, in theory, be able to have real-time communications between Mars and earth, without the typical 4.3 - 21 min. delay it takes for radio signals, traveling at the speed of light, to traverse the distance. That's pretty damn amazing; a real life ansible!
Joe
Quantum entanglement does not allow faster than light communications. Do some Google searches there is the Forbes article and plenty of others that highlight why this is not possible. It breaks causality in the universe, and the physical reasons are described.
This is interesting from a security standpoint where entanglement, I believe, can be very useful
MemoriaTechnica
@Joe If you look at it from the standpoint of Newtonian Physics, we explain it as there *must* be some sort of information traveling between the two entangled particles, at a rate that exceeds the speed of light in a vacuum, were we to shine a laser between the same two points. That said, no actual information is moving back and forth, it just *acts* as if it is, and that is that mystery of entangled particles. So, technically, Einstein's speed of light rule isn't being broken.

Though there are many theories, the way my layman's brain hypothesizes it is; imagine a sticking the ends of a rounded horseshoe magnet through a two dimensional plane of existence. From the perspective of someone living in a 2D world, they would see two separate circles appear with opposite polar spins; just like entangled pairs. Now imagine, instead of a permanent magnet, it's an electromagnet with a switch to flip the directional flow of electricity. Again, from the 2D perspective, you see these two dots with polar opposite spins, but now they keep switching polarity, and no mater what direction one spins, the other *always* spins in the opposite direction. Those 2D people would conclude, that some how, information is passing between the two points, telling them to flip polarity, faster than the speed of light could travel the same distance. However, in reality, what appears to be two *separate* dots to the 2D world is, in fact, only two points on the same *single* object existing in a higher dimension.

So... Following that line of reasoning, it's "possible" what we're are experiencing as two separate entangled particles in 3 dimensional space, may actually be two points of a *single* object, that exists in higher dimensions, passing through our lower dimensions. It certainly would explain much of the behavior of quantum entangled particles. Though I could be *entirely* wrong. But it sure is fun to think about.
Steve Moulton
ok my observations. I have done some questionable things and escaped without a scratch. Clearly there are other dimensions we were engineered (missing link) not to be conscious of, Because something warped my reality for a second. if quantum entanglement were just a dimension we had not clue about, there is your connection as those particles may be touching in that dimension. the body looses mas at death yet no where can it be found to go,poof. like a magic show . so when light is a wave what is it waving ?, the eather ? that would have to be 2 dimensions, or one spinning very fast .
piperTom
The post from Joe (June 25) is correct. No information is transmitted (nor is any energy), which means the even does NOT violate the speed of light limit. An easy thought experiment shows that IF information was transferred by entanglement, then such information could also be transmitted backward in time. Entanglement IS useful in communication, because it can help exchange encryption standards while avoiding "man in the middle" attacks.
rninne
So no data is transferred, but data can be inferred. The "flipping" or property changes could happen in a structured way e.g. binary or some simple encoding like morse code. Imagine what you could do with two processors built with entangled bits.