Air Force Seeks Impossible-to-Intercept Communications

By Eric Beidel
As hackers become more prevalent on computer networks, information must be able to travel faster and more securely than ever before.

The Air Force has enlisted a group of researchers to create quantum memories based on the interaction between light and matter that would result in a new form of encryption that some experts have called “perfect.” Quantum systems provide a level of security far exceeding that of any cryptographic protocol currently known, experts say.

Led by a team at the Georgia Institute of Technology, researchers will look at three approaches for producing entangled quantum memories that could allow for long-distance transmission of secure information. The Air Force Office of

Scientific Research is funding the five-year, $8.5 million project.

“We aim to create large-scale systems that use entanglement for quantum communication and potentially also quantum computing,” says principal investigator Alex Kuzmich, a professor in Georgia Tech’s school of physics.

Scientists will look at different ways of designing the matter-light interaction used to produce entangled photons, including neutral atom memories with electronically excited interactions, nitrogen-vacancy defects in diamonds and charged quantum dots. The researchers are striving for three basic capabilities: storing quantum information for seconds rather than milliseconds as is the best case scenario today; converting the information to light; and transmitting the information over long distances.

Challenges remain, including minimizing the loss of light as signals move through optical fiber systems used to transmit the entangled photons.

“Light is easily lost, and there’s not much that can be done about that from a fundamental physics standpoint,” Kuzmich says.

The optical equipment used in research also will have to be shrunk down to chip size for the commercial market.

Topics: C4ISR, Tactical Communications, Science and Engineering Technology

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