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China science

Quantum teleportation breakthrough earns Pan Jianwei’s team China’s top science award

China will have the world’s largest quantum communication network, including the first-ever quantum satellite launched in space, by the time summer rolls around, says professor

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 January, 2016, 1:37pm
UPDATED : Monday, 12 June, 2017, 12:53pm

A breakthrough in quantum technology has earned China’s top science accolade as President Xi Jinping handed the State Natural Science Award (first class) to a team of quantum physicists led by Pan Jianwei in Beijing on Friday.

Pan’s team at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, Anhui province, set a world record in terms of quantum teleportation, or the sending of quantum information - for example, the exact state of an atom - from one place to another.

The revolutionary technology is expected to pave way for the development of unbreakable quantum communication networks, as well as a quantum computer billions of times faster than current supercomputers.

China’s annual natural science award was not short on controversy, however.

Last year’s award was handed to a team of computer scientists led by Zhang Yaoxue for their remote desktop project. But this prompted an outcry among the research community due to the low citation of their research paper and the fact that they lifted codes from open-source software.

READ MORE: Is China a new superpower in physics? As Tu Youyou earns Nobel Prize for medicine, pair from Anhui get Physics World’s Breakthrough of the Year award

The Chinese authorities seemed to have learned their lesson this year.

The work by Pan’s team was published in a number of leading academic journals as well as Nature magazine. It was also selected by the London-headquartered think tank the Institute of Physics, one of the largest societies of its kind in the world, as the biggest breakthrough of 2015 in the field of physics.

Pan, who at the age of 45 becomes the youngest scientist to earn the distinction, predicted there will soon be a revolution in quantum physics that will take China and the world by storm.

He told the website of China’s state-run People’s Daily on Friday that China will possess the world’s largest quantum communication network, including the first-ever quantum satellite launched in space and ground-based facilities spanning thousands of kilometres, by no later than this summer.

Within just five years, the country will also have its first quantum computer that can make calculations at a speed unmatched by any conventional computer today, he added.