On September 29, Bai Chunli, president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Austrian quantum physicist, Anton Zeilinger, engaged in the first ever inter-continental quantum video call. Quantum communication technology cannot be wiretapped, intercepted or cracked. This means that only those at either end of the conversation can understand what is being said.
Micius is the world’s first quantum satellite. It was launched by China in August last year and is named after a fifth century B. C. philosopher and scientist. Micius circles Earth at an altitude of about 500 kilometers. From orbit it sends out light particles and photons to ground stations in China and Europe.
Johannes Handsteiner from the Austrian Academy of Sciences’ explains that: “If somebody attempts to intercept the photons exchanged between the satellite and the ground station, the quantum state of the photons will be changed by this measurement attempt, immediately exposing the hackers.”
“The exchange of quantum encrypted information over inter-continental distances confirms the potential of quantum communication technologies as opened up by fundamental research”, says Anton Zeilinger. He is convinced: “This is a very important step towards a world-wide and secure quantum internet.”
The project was run by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the University of Vienna and the Austrian Academy of Science. Given the initial success of the first quantum call, additional conversations using the technology have already been planned between China, Singapore, Germany, Italy and Russia. If these conversations are seamless, the scientists behind the project hope to have a European-Asian quantum-safe network up and running by 2020.
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