First use of quantum technology to create a random number generator that is both tiny and fast
Random number generators are crucial to the encryption that protects our privacy and security when engaging in digital transactions such as buying products online or withdrawing cash from an ATM. For the first time, engineers have developed a fast random number generator based on a quantum mechanical process that could deliver the world’s most secure encryption keys in a package tiny enough to use in a mobile device.
In The Optical Society’s journal for high impact research, Optica, the researchers report on their fully integrated device for random number generation. The new work represents a key advancement on the path to incorporating quantum-based random number generators — delivering the highest quality numbers and thus the highest level of security — into computers, tablets and mobile phones.
“We’ve managed to put quantum-based technology that has been used in high profile science experiments into a package that might allow it to be used commercially,” said the paper’s first author, Carlos Abellan, a doctoral student at ICFO-The Institute of Photonic Sciences, a member of the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology, Spain. “This is likely just one example of quantum technologies that will soon be available for use in real commercial products. It is a big step forward as far as integration is concerned.”
The new device operates at speeds in the range of gigabits per second, fast enough for real-time encryption of communication data, such as a phone or video calls, or for encrypting large amounts of data traveling to and from a server like that used by a social media platform. It could also find use in stock market predictions and complex scientific simulations of random processes, such as biological interactions or nuclear reactions.
Shrinking the truly random
The random number generators used today are based on computer algorithms or the randomness of physical processes — essentially complex versions of rolling dice over and over again to get random numbers. Although the numbers generated appear to be random, knowing certain information, such as how many “dice” are being used, can allow hackers to sometimes figure out the numbers, leaving secured data vulnerable to hacking.
The new device, however, generates random numbers based on the quantum properties of light, a process that is inherently random and thus impossible to predict no matter how much information is known. Although other researchers have developed quantum random number generators, they have all been either larger or slower than the device reported in the Optica paper.
“We have previously shown that the quantum processes taking place exhibit true randomness,” said Valerio Pruneri, who led the collaborative research effort. “In this new paper, we made a huge technological advance by using a new design that includes two lasers that interfere with each other in a confined space. This makes the device smaller while keeping the same properties that were used in the past experiments.”
Creating a practical device
The researchers used photonic integrated circuit (PIC) technology to create two quantum number generators that together measure 6 by 2 millimeters. PIC technology offers a way to integrate photonic components — such as the lasers and detectors used by the new quantum random generator — onto a chip with a small footprint and low power consumption. Most importantly, PIC-based devices can be integrated with traditional electronics, which could allow the random number generator to be used with the driving, reading and processing electronics necessary for computation or communications.
“We proved that quantum technologies are within practical reach by exploiting PICs,” said Pruneri. “Quantum random number generation as well as quantum cryptography and other quantum-based technologies will benefit from PIC-based technology because it allows one to build commercial and innovative products. Ours is a first demonstration.”
The optics advancement may solve an approaching data bottleneck by helping to boost computing power and information transfer rates tenfold
Like a whirlpool, a new light-based communication tool carries data in a swift, circular motion.
Described in a study published today (July 28, 2016) by the journal Science, the optics advancement could become a central component of next generation computers designed to handle society’s growing demand for information sharing.
It may also be a salve to those fretting over the predicted end of Moore’s Law, the idea that researchers will find new ways to continue making computers smaller, faster and cheaper.
“To transfer more data while using less energy, we need to rethink what’s inside these machines,” says Liang Feng, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University at Buffalo’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the study’s co-lead author.
The Politecnico di Milano (English: Polytechnic University of Milan) is the largest technical university in Italy, with about 40,000 students.
It offers undergraduate, graduate and higher education courses in engineering, architecture and design. Founded in 1863, it is the oldest university in Milan.
The Politecnico has two main campuses in Milan city, where the majority of the research and teaching activity are located, and other satellite campuses in five other cities across Lombardy and Emilia Romagna. The central offices and headquarters are located in the historical campus of Città Studi in Milan, which is also the largest, active since 1927.
The university was ranked the best for Engineering and among the top big universities in Italy in the CENSIS-Repubblica Italian University rankings for 2014-2015 and is ranked as the 20th best technical university in the world according to the QS World University Rankings.
The university is ranked 11th for Design, 24th for Engineering and 14th for Architecture in the world, according to the QS World University Rankings.
Its notable alumni include Giulio Natta, Nobel laureate in chemistry in 1963.
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Polytechnic University of Milan research articles from Innovation Toronto
An international team composed by scientists of Radboud University and the University Politecnico di Milano has realized the ultimate speed limit of the control of spins in a solid state magnetic material.
Nature Communications publishes their results on February 5.
The rise of the digital information era posed a daunting challenge to develop ever faster and smaller devices for data storage and processing. An approach which relies on the magnetic moment of electrons (i.e. the spin) rather than the charge, has recently turned into major research fields, called spintronics and magnonics.
In the current publication, the researchers were able to induce spin oscillations of the intrinsically highest frequency by using femtosecond laser pulses (1 fs = 10-15 sec). Furthermore, they demonstrated a complete and arbitrary manipulation of the phase and the amplitude of these magnetic oscillations – also called magnons. The length-scale of these magnons is on the order of 1 nanometre.
These results pave the way to the unprecedented frequency range of 20 THz for magnetic recording devices, which can be employed also at the nanometer scale.