China’s Micius satellite is a highly sensitive photon receiver that can detect the quantum states of single photons fired from the ground. Micius orbits at an altitude of 500 kilometers, and for most of this distance, any photons making the journey travel through a vacuum. To minimize the amount of atmosphere in the way, the Chinese team set up its ground station in Ngari in Tibet at an altitude of over 4,000 meters. So the distance from the ground to the satellite varies from 1,400 kilometers when it is near the horizon to 500 kilometers when it is overhead.
The Chinese team created entangled pairs of photons on the ground at a rate of about 4,000 per second. They then beamed one of these photons to the satellite, which passed overhead every day at midnight. They kept the other photon on the ground.
Finally, they measured the photons on the ground and in orbit to confirm that entanglement was taking place, and that they were able to teleport photons in this way. Over 32 days, they sent millions of photons and found positive results in 911 cases.
An arbitrary unknown quantum state cannot be precisely measured or perfectly replicated. However, quantum teleportation allows faithful transfer of unknown quantum states from one object to another over long distance, without physical travelling of the object itself. Long-distance teleportation has been recognized as a fundamental element in protocols such as large-scale quantum networks and distributed quantum computation. However, the previous teleportation experiments between distant locations were limited to a distance on the order of 100 kilometers, due to photon loss in optical fibres or terrestrial free-space channels. An outstanding open challenge for a global-scale “quantum internet” is to significantly extend the range for teleportation. A promising solution to this problem is exploiting satellite platform and space-based link, which can conveniently connect two remote points on the Earth with greatly reduced channel loss because most of the photons’ propagation path is in empty space. Here, we report the first quantum teleportation of independent single-photon qubits from a ground observatory to a low Earth orbit satellite – through an up-link channel – with a distance up to 1400 km. To optimize the link efficiency and overcome the atmospheric turbulence in the up-link, a series of techniques are developed, including a compact ultra-bright source of multi-photon entanglement, narrow beam divergence, high-bandwidth and high-accuracy acquiring, pointing, and tracking (APT). We demonstrate successful quantum teleportation for six input states in mutually unbiased bases with an average fidelity of 0.80+/-0.01, well above the classical limit. 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.