Quantum teleportation is perhaps the closest that modern technology has come to developing a sort of teleporter for transmitting physical objects across distances without the use of some physical method of moving them. Quantum teleportation involves transmitting the exact state that an atom or photon exists in, and then using this data at a different site to reassemble it. This quantum information cannot travel faster than the speed of light, since it depends on classical communication.
Electromagnetic waves travel at the speed of light in theory, and as a result this kind of technology could never be used for superluminal transportation. Nevertheless, it might someday in the near future be used to move freight. Two teleporter pads could be assembled with stores of basic raw atomic material on both sides. An object could be reduced to basic quantum qubits on one end of the teleporter system.
These qubits could then be sent to the next pad. The object’s physical atomic state would be broken down and stored with the rest of the stock on the first side, while the operator on the receiving end would reassemble the object out of stock using the quantum information as a blueprint. Operators could not endlessly manufacture duplicates, however.
Machinery used in the process would disrupt the quantum system at the sending location. This kind of equipment could not violate the no-cloning theorem. So far all real world experiments with this kind of machinery have involved light photons. Some experiments have been able to transport quantum information nearly 90 miles between two points.
Some people have asked questions about this type of equipment that border on philosophical. If a teleporter pad were constructed that moved people, it would actually be replicating a copy of a person and destroying the original (think Star Trek). This gets into a sticky situation of whether what makes a human being an individual could actually travel through such a system, or whether a teleporter is committing a form of quantum homicide.
Quantum Teleportation Illustration: Fig. 1 via Nature
Due to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, it would probably be too difficult to transmit quantum information belonging to living organisms anyway so these questions may never even have to be asked. What you should make sure to remember is that this kind of technology is actually not a real form of teleportation, but rather a method of advanced communication. Teleportation devices that actually convert matter to energy are an entirely different story, and wouldn’t be associated with these sorts of metaphysical quandaries.
In theory matter and energy are two sides of the same coin. It should be possible to convert matter into electromagnetic waves and then transport these somewhere else. Should there be radio interference, however, the transported object may have instead been lost.
Satyabrata Adhikari, A S Majumdar, Dipankar Home, A K Pan, & P Joshi (2012). Quantum teleportation using non-orthogonal entangled channels. Phys. Scr. (85 045001) DOI: 10.1088/0031-8949/85/04/045001.
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