BEIJING-Physicists in China have revealed the details on their ground-breaking experiment to achieve ‘ultra-long-distance quantum teleportation,’ which could pave the way for a global quantum internet. In a major breakthrough, the team established the first ground-to-satellite quantum network, which allowed them to transmit a photon from an entangled pair up to 870 miles (1,400 kilometers). Entangled photons theoretically maintain their link across any distance, and have potential to revolutionize secure communications – but, scientists have previously only managed to maintain the bond for about 62 miles (100 km). The experiments relied on the ‘quantum satellite’ Micius, which launched to a Sun-synchronous orbit last year from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre. As the satellite moves through its orbit, its distance from the Tibetan ground station varies from 500 km to 1400 km (310.7 – 869.9 miles).

‘In our experiment, the quantum state to be teleported is the polarization of a single photon,’ the researchers explain in the paper, published to arXiv.

‘Such a single qubit is generated from an observatory ground station in Ngari, and aimed to be teleported to the Micius satellite that has been launched from China on 16th August 2016 to an altitude of ~500 km.’

This setup is what’s known as an uplink configuration, according to the researchers.

The 1,300 pound craft satellite is equipped with a laser beam, which the scientists subjected to a beam splitter.

This gave the beam two distinct polarized states.

In the up-link approach, the transmitter is located at the ground station, while the satellite acts as the receiver.

The experiments relied on the ‘quantum satellite’ Micius, which launched to a Sun-synchronous orbit last year from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre.

As the satellite moves through its orbit, its distance from the Tibetan ground station varies from 500 km to 1400 km (310.7 – 869.9 miles).

‘In our experiment, the quantum state to be teleported is the polarization of a single photon,’ the researchers explain in the paper, published to arXiv.

‘Such a single qubit is generated from an observatory ground station in Ngari, and aimed to be teleported to the Micius satellite that has been launched from China on 16th August 2016 to an altitude of ~500 km.’

This setup is what’s known as an uplink configuration, according to the researchers.

The 1,300 pound craft satellite is equipped with a laser beam, which the scientists subjected to a beam splitter.

This gave the beam two distinct polarized states.

In the up-link approach, the transmitter is located at the ground station, while the satellite acts as the receiver.

Pairs of entangled photons fired to ground stations can form a ‘secret key’ – and, theoretically, any attempts to breach this type of communication would be easily detectable.

According to the researchers, ‘This work establishes the first ground-to-satellite up-link for faithful and ultra-long-distance quantum teleportation, an essential step toward global-scale quantum internet.’

The Micius satellite launched from Jiuquan Satellite launch Center last year, and the new findings mark a promising step forward in the two-year mission prove successful, which could be followed by a fleet of others if all goes well, according to Nature.

To overcome the complications of long-distance quantum entanglement, scientists often break the line of transmission up, creating smaller segments that can then repeatedly swap, purify, and store the information along the optical fiber, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Or, as in this case, they can use lasers and satellites.

The researchers sought to prove that particles can remain entangled across great distances, aiming for nearly 750 miles.

Earlier efforts to demonstrate quantum communication have shown this can be done up to just over 180 miles, and scientists hope that transmitting the photons through space will push this even farther.

When travelling through air and optical fibres, protons get scattered or absorbed, Nature explains, posing challenges to the preservation of the fragile quantum state.