China’s Micius Mission Sets New Grounds in Quantum Science

China’s Micius Mission Sets New Grounds in Quantum Science

China launched Micius satellite last August from the Gobi desert and the project has broken an important quantum physics record by beaming entangled photons from space to our planet. The satellite has been successful in beaming entangled photons nearly 300 miles away from Earth to two receiving stations. The idea has been theorized for quite some time but this is the first time that it has been tested by Micius mission. The two base stations are separated by the distance of 1,200 kilometers and the research team was able to separate the entangled photon pairs. Quantum physicists are excited about the achievement of Micius project team. The Chinese mission has been named after a famous 5th century Chinese scientist.

A research paper detailing the project has been published in journal Science. The project was led by Jian-Wei Pan, a physicist at the University of Science and Technology of China in Shanghai. They were able to beam entangled photons to two base stations separated by a distance of 750 miles without losing their linkage. The project is the first ever to achieve this rare milestone.

Norbert Lütkenhaus, a professor at the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo in Canada informed, “This is the first time you have a quantum channel between a satellite and the ground that you can actually use. People have been talking about doing it for many, many years, but these guys actually did it.”

A photon is the smallest unit of light and it has no mass or charge. Entangled photos are pairs of photos with linked properties and they remain that way even if they are separated by a distance. However, physicists have not been able to explain the reason behind entanglement of photons. Lütkenhaus said, “If you make a measurement on one of the photons, you get a perfectly correlated outcome on the other member of the pair.”

Quantum particles or entangled photons don’t need wires or cables to link them. On Earth, it is important to use fiber optic cable to transmit particles from point A to point B and the quantum connection weakens with distance. The Chinese research team was able to run this experiment successfully in space as there wasn’t a limitation to use optic fiber. The team has broken earlier record for distance of 86 miles, of sending information via entangled particles.

“It's a really stunning achievement, and I think it's going to be the first of possibly many such interesting and exciting studies that this particular satellite will open up,” said Shohini Ghose, a physicist at Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada. “Who knows, maybe there’ll be a space entanglement race?”

A report published by Washington Post informed, “The behavior of entangled particles in space and across vast distances offers insight into the nature of space-time and the validity of Einstein's theory of general relativity. Plus there's the whole issue of what is going on with these bizarre linked photons in the first place.”

Pan said, “This is the first baby step for quantum entanglement experiments going into space. It is really new!”