Quantum entanglement is a physical phenomenon that occurs when a pair or group of particles is generated, interact, or share spatial proximity in a way such that the quantum state of each particle of the pair or group cannot be described independently of the state of the others, including when the particles are separated by a large distance.
The topic of quantum entanglement is at the heart of the disparity between classical and quantum physics: entanglement is a primary feature of quantum mechanics lacking in classical mechanics.
Measurements of physical properties such as position, momentum, spin, and polarization performed on entangled particles can, in some cases, be found to be perfectly correlated. For example, if a pair of entangled particles is generated such that their total spin is known to be zero, and one particle is found to have clockwise spin on a first axis, then the spin of the other particle, measured on the same axis, is found to be counterclockwise.
However, this behavior gives rise to seemingly paradoxical effects: any measurement of a particle’s properties results in an irreversible wave function collapse of that particle and changes the original quantum state. With entangled particles, such measurements affect the entangled system as a whole.
An entangled system is defined to be one whose quantum state cannot be factored as a product of states of its local constituents; that is to say, they are not individual particles but are an inseparable whole. In entanglement, one constituent cannot be fully described without considering the other(s). The state of a composite system is always expressible as a sum, or superposition, of products of states of local constituents; it is entangled if this sum cannot be written as a single product term.
Quantum systems can become entangled through various types of interactions. For some ways in which entanglement may be achieved for experimental purposes, see the section below on methods. Entanglement is broken when the entangled particles decohere through interaction with the environment; for example, when a measurement is made.
As an example of entanglement: a subatomic particle decays into an entangled pair of other particles.
According to some interpretations of quantum mechanics, the effect of one measurement occurs instantly. Other interpretations which don’t recognize wavefunction collapse dispute that there is any “effect” at all.
However, all interpretations agree that entanglement produces correlation between the measurements and that the mutual information between the entangled particles can be exploited, but that any transmission of information at faster-than-light speeds is impossible.
Quantum entanglement has been demonstrated experimentally with photons, neutrinos, electrons, molecules as large as buckyballs, and even small diamonds. The utilization of entanglement in communication, computation and quantum radar is a very active area of research and development.
Entanglement has many applications in quantum information theory. With the aid of entanglement, otherwise impossible tasks may be achieved. Among the best-known applications of entanglement are superdense coding and quantum teleportation.