Teleportation always used to seem so simple. All it took was a quick
call to Mr Scott, and Star Trek's Captain Kirk would be beamed up from
the cheap-looking scenery of some alien planet and materialise on the
These days it's all about lasers, subatomic particles and very hard
sums, but one Australian research team's world-beating discoveries in
the field seem almost as far-fetched as the science fiction version.
The multinational group from Canberra's Australian National University
(ANU) have become the first on this particular planet to demonstrate
the sharing of secrets via teleportation using quantum physics.
Who cares? Well, a lot of big businesses, because their discovery has
moved unbreakable codes, superfast computers and communications
inaccessible to cybercriminals a step closer.
What the team's find boils down to is that, using a laser, they can
teleport to a network of recipients a signal which can only be
reassembled by a majority of the recipients. Any less and the signal
cannot be reconstituted.
The team's leader, Chinese-born Ping Koy Lam, was building on work done
by the university in 2002, when they teleported information using a
But Ping described the latest achievement as "a much more complex form
of information teleportation in the sense that it involves multiple
Teleportation is defined as the production, disembodiment and
successful reconstruction of a signal, which in this case was a high
frequency sound to three participants. The message in the future may be
spoken or typed.
The researchers used crystals, lenses and mirrors to produce a pair of
"entangled" laser beams that are then used to carry fragile information
in the form of quantum states.
"These quantum states cannot be measured or copied, making
eavesdropping impossible," Lance said in a statement released by the
university. "The transmission of the light beams constitutes a secret
communication scheme with guaranteed security."
The process of secret sharing is said to be a fundamental part of
present day telecommunication, computer and banking practices.
"Such network communication can be enhanced using the laws of quantum
physics to protect the information, a process called quantum state
"The benefit of this technology is that the encrypted message can only be decoded by a majority of recipients.
"For example, if an encrypted message was sent to a spy network
containing 15 individuals, a minimum of eight agents would be needed to
access the message - limiting the chances of the message being
infiltrated or deleted by a double-agent."
The ANU team spent more than a year working through their theory, which
has been published in the latest edition of the scientific journal
Physical Review Letters, then proving it worked on a large tabletop
apparatus, involving multiple lasers, mirrors, lenses and computers in
the optics laboratory.
The work was performed at the ANU by Chinese-born Ping Koy Lam, Belgian
post-doctoral researcher Thomas Symul and Australian doctoral student
Andrew Lance in collaboration with professor Barry Sanders of Canada's
University of Calgary.
"Beam me up Scotty" it ain't. But the team says it is likely to attract
attention from the defence and finance industries, eager to secure
their secret transmissions.
They also claim it has potential to significantly enhance the security
of computer systems and lead to computers infinitely faster than those