Two groups of physicists have teleported physical properties between atoms without using a physical link, a discovery they say could help develop ultrafast quantum computing technology.

The teleportation was on a subatomic scale in the lab.

The Austrian and American researchers were able to transfer the physical properties of an atom, such as its energy and spin.

Until now, scientists had only been able to do this with laser beams.

To do it, physicists first had to "entangle" two atoms, a phenomenon where a disturbance to one particle instantly affects the other, no matter how far away it is. Albert Einstein described it as a "spooky interaction."

Quantum computers use these physical properties to represent data, potentially carrying out complex calculations needed to encrypt information such as fraud-proof digital signatures.

In the U.S. experiments, David Wineland of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colo., transmitted characteristics between pairs of beryllium ions.

Rainer Blatt of the University of Innsbruck in Austria used pairs of entangled calcium ions.

The teams used different techniques to teleport their atoms, but in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature, both groups reported similar success in matching the quantum state of the second ion to the original.

"The techniques developed and employed by these groups will no doubt prove important in the quest to build large-scale quantum computers based on trapped ions," said H.J. Kimble of Caltech and S.J. van Enk of Bell Labs in New Jersey. The pair wrote a commentary accompanying the studies.