Monday, February 3, 2014

Reviving the Dream of Quantum Energy Teleportation


How’s this for a technology dream? Energy transported over distances with no need for conductors/carriors. Electricity (for example) goes “in” at some centralized power generation/storage source and comes “out” wherever, with no need for anything in between. So: off-the-grid living not because you’re a solar panel or windmill dynamo, but because “grids” are obsolete. In this dream, electricity has become teleportable, and a new paper posted to the arVix preprint server suggests a way this might be realized.

First devised by IBM's Charles Bennett in 1992, energy teleportation isn’t exactly a new idea. It’s an implication of the principle of quantum entanglement, in which the state of one particle or even atom can be “sent” over potentially a very long distance instantaneously (and very, very securely). How this might result in actual energy being transmitted remained something of a blank until 2008, when researcher Masahiro Hotta, author of the new paper, described a method by which energy isn’t sent directly, but instead is sent via a quantum channel as information that might allow the recipient to “harvest” energy from the surprisingly energetic quantum foam that makes up the absolute vacuum state of the universe.

Recall that if you took absolutely everything out of a cube of space—every single atom and particle—the laws of quantum mechanics say that new, temporary particles would bubble out of the pure emptiness. They would disappear quickly but nonetheless be real enough to be useful. It just takes information to achieve that utility, and measurements have costs in energy. It's that measurement energy that's being sent: the sender makes a measurement on a vacuum state, which requires energy, and sends it along a quantum channel, at the other end of which a recipient receives the results of the measurement.

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