World's first quantum satellite is launched in Jiuquan, Gansu Province, China, August 16, 2016
World's first quantum satellite is launched in Jiuquan, Gansu Province, China, August 16, 2016

China uses bizarre 'quantum entanglement' to send messages using satellite

It harnesses what Einstein described as 'spooky action at a distance'

A chinese quantum satellite has sent 'spooky' messages over a huge distance, potentially signalling the future of the internet.

It harnesses the bizarre phenomenon of "quantum entanglement" – where particles can affect another twin, far away in space.

The satellite sent a message over 1,200km – 12 times more than ever before – in a move that could allow for massive breakthroughs in secure communications.

The quantum satellite was launched in August 2016, with the hope that it could be used to help establish "hack proof" communications between space and the ground.

The feat opens up "bright prospects" for quantum communications, said Pan Jianwei, the lead scientist of the Chinese team, QuantumExperiments at Space Scale (QUESS), according to the official Xinhua news agency.

The scientists exploited the phenomenon of quantum entanglement, in which a particle can affect a far-off twin instantly, somehow overcoming the long distance separating them, a situation termed "spooky action at a distance" by the Nobel-prize winning physicist Albert Einstein, Xinhua added.

The team had successfully distributed entangled photon pairs over 1,200 km, it said, outstripping the distance of up to 100 km (62 miles) at which entanglement had previously been achieved.

The technology so far is "the only way to establish secure keys between two distant locations on earth without relying on trustful relay," Pan told Xinhua, referring to encrypted messages.

The new development "illustrates the possibility of a future global quantum communication network" the journal Science, which published the results of the Chinese team, said on its website.

China still lags behind the United States and Russia in space technology, although President Xi Jinping has prioritized advancing its space program, citing national security and defence.

China insists its space programme is for peaceful purposes, but the U.S. Defense Department has highlighted its increasing space capabilities, saying it was pursuing activities aimed at preventing adversaries from using space-based assets in a crisis.

China's launch of the first experimental quantum satellite was a "notable advance in cryptography research", the Pentagon said this month.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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