Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

NIST quantum keys system sets speed record for ’unbreakable’ encryption

03.05.2004


The fastest known cryptographic system based on transmission of single photons---the smallest pulses of light---has been demonstrated by a team at the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The transmissions cannot be intercepted without detection, so that messages encrypted with the system can be kept secret.



The NIST "quantum key distribution" (QKD) system transmits a stream of individual photons to generate a verifiably secret key--a random series of digital bits, each representing 0 or 1, used to encrypt messages--at a rate of 1 million bits per second (bps). This rate is about 100 times faster than previously reported systems of this type.

The demonstration, described in the May 3 issue of Optics Express,* is the first major reported result from a new NIST testbed built to demonstrate quantum communications technologies and cryptographic key distribution. The testbed provides a measurement and standards infrastructure for research, testing, calibrations and technology development. Scientists tested the QKD system by generating an encryption key that could be sent back and forth between two NIST buildings that are 730 meters apart. They are using the testbed to develop data-handling techniques associated with this type of encryption.


Acadia Optronics LLC of Rockville, Md., consulted on the system design and hardware. Partial funding for the project was provided by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Quantum systems--exploiting the laws of quantum mechanics--are expected to provide the next big advance in data encryption. The beauty of quantum key distribution is its sensitivity to measurements made by an eavesdropper. This sensitivity makes it possible to ensure the secrecy of the key and, hence, the encrypted message. The keys are generated by transmitting single photons that are polarized, or oriented, in one of four possible ways. An eavesdropper reading the transmission causes detectable changes at the receiver. When such changes are observed, the associated key is not used for encryption.

Compared to previously described QKD systems, the major difference in the NIST system is the way it identifies a photon from the sender among a large number of photons from other sources, such as the sun. To make this distinction, scientists time-stamp the QKD photons, then look for them only when one is expected to arrive.

"To be effective, this observation time has to be very short," says NIST physicist Joshua Bienfang. "But the more often you can make these very brief observations, then the faster you can generate keys. We have adapted some techniques used in high-speed telecommunications to increase significantly the rate at which we can look for photons."

The NIST team has packaged data-handling electronics operating in the gigahertz (1 billion bits per second) range in a pair of programmable printed circuited boards that plug into standard PCs. Photon losses caused by imperfections in the photon sources and detectors, optics and procedures reduce the key generation rate. However, 1 million bps makes QKD practical for a variety of new applications, such as large network distributions or streaming encrypted video.

"We are processing data much faster with this hardware than can currently be done with software," says NIST electrical engineer Alan Mink. "You would need a computer processing at more than 100 GHz (about 50 times faster than current PCs) to do it with software and you still couldn’t do it fast enough because the operating system would slow you down."

The NIST quantum system uses an infrared laser to generate the photons and telescopes with 8-inch mirrors to send and receive the photons over the air. The data are processed in real time by printed circuit boards designed and built at NIST, so that a computer produces ready-made keys. NIST researchers also developed a high-speed approach to error correction.

Further research is planned to improve the system, primarily by addressing the need for faster photon detectors, the principal barrier to the development of practical systems for more widespread use. The group plans to incorporate NIST-developed photon sources and detectors. More information about NIST’s quantum information program can be found at http://qubit.nist.gov.


As a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Technology Administration, NIST develops and promotes measurement, standards and technology to enhance productivity, facilitate trade and improve the quality of life.

*Optics Express is the online rapid publication journal of the Optical Society of America. See: http://www.opticsexpress.org.

Laura Ost | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://qubit.nist.gov
http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/releases/quantumkeys_background.htm
http://www.opticsexpress.org

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht New software speeds origami structure designs
12.10.2017 | Georgia Institute of Technology

nachricht Seeing the next dimension of computer chips
11.10.2017 | Osaka University

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

Im Focus: New nanomaterial can extract hydrogen fuel from seawater

Hybrid material converts more sunlight and can weather seawater's harsh conditions

It's possible to produce hydrogen to power fuel cells by extracting the gas from seawater, but the electricity required to do it makes the process costly. UCF...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Plant escape from waterlogging

17.10.2017 | Life Sciences

Study suggests oysters offer hot spot for reducing nutrient pollution

17.10.2017 | Life Sciences

Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

17.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>