Engineers using quantum nature of light to boost Internet security

May 08, 2013

Michael Vasilyev's goals in his research are simply stated: increase by tenfold the amount of information that can be securely transmitted via the Internet and the distance over which that data can be transmitted.

Vasilyev, a UT Arlington associate professor of electrical engineering, is participating in an $8 million research project funded by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency that enlists five universities and three companies to study advanced quantum communications.

Conventional or classical communication transmits information by "bits" that take values of either one or zero. In contrast to that, quantum communication uses , or "," which, in addition to being one or zero can also be in a "" state, which is both one and zero simultaneously.

The qubits are represented by quantum-, such as single photons, that can provide a much higher level of protection from eavesdropping than classical .

"There are all kinds of personal information – both among private citizens and public governments – that require the utmost security," Vasilyev said. " offers the most rigorous solution for security because it employs the of to enforce the exclusive linkage between the sender and the receiver, with no chance of other people eavesdropping."

Jean-Pierre Bardet, dean of the UT Arlington College of Engineering, said Vasilyev's work is essential to expanding the data information superhighway.

", storage and security are crucial elements as our information-based society continues to grow and mature," Bardet said. "Dr. Vasilyev's work demonstrates the important role UT Arlington engineers are playing as we investigate these critical issues in shaping network security and capacity for the future."

Vasilyev said one of the challenges in current technology is that today's secure quantum communications can be done at any meaningful speed only over short distances, about 100 kilometers before the signal breaks down.

Longer distances can only be used at the expense of a dramatic reduction in the transmission capacity. Qubits cannot go through optical amplifiers, commonly used in classical communications, without losing their quantum-mechanical security advantages, he said.

"It opens the possibility of hackers intercepting a message that must be made secure," Vasilyev said.

Vasilyev's lab will encode information in spatial features or pixels of the photons that are sent through multimode fiber-optic lines to dramatically increase the amount of received data without jeopardizing its security protected by quantum mechanics.

"We will transmit multi-pixel spatial patterns to encode more and more information into single photons," said Vasilyev, who noted that Northwestern University is the prime contractor for the nationwide project. Vasilyev's portion of the larger grant is $675,000 over four years.

Other participants in the project will contribute technologies such as quantum frequency conversion, quantum repeaters, arbitrary waveform generation and advanced coding schemes to further increase the capacity and distance of the secure information transmission. Other participants include: the University of California, Davis;

University of Calgary, Canada; Montana State University; Raytheon BBN Technologies, Cambridge, Mass.; Advanced Communication Sciences, Piscataway, N.J.; and NuCrypt LLC, Evanston, Ill.

Vasilyev added that the technology developed will be useful for classical communications as well.

"The Internet is facing a capacity crisis," Vasilyev said. "If the current rates of network traffic growth continue, we could be out of bandwidth by 2020, unless we start harnessing the spatial degrees of freedom of in a fiber."

Vasilyev's recent research focused on dramatically reducing the cost of transporting data over the Internet backbone. His group, in collaboration with the University of Vermont, has developed regeneration technology that restores the quality of optical signals at multiple wavelengths simultaneously, without ever converting them to electrical signals.

"The power of optics is in its capability to process many independent high-speed data streams in parallel," Vasilyev said. "So far, we have been applying this power to multiple wavelengths. With all possible wavelengths exhausted, we're now turning to multiple spatial pixels to keep the capacity growing."

Explore further: Quantum physics just got less complicated

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Ultra-secure quantum communications

May 20, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- The risk of sensitive information falling into the wrong hands could be eliminated by a new quantum communication process that delivers unprecedented security.

The age of quantum information

Sep 15, 2011

Today’s computers, which are based on classical mechanics, process information coded in long streams of 1s and 0s.

Recommended for you

Quantum physics just got less complicated

Dec 19, 2014

Here's a nice surprise: quantum physics is less complicated than we thought. An international team of researchers has proved that two peculiar features of the quantum world previously considered distinct ...

Controlling light on a chip at the single-photon level

Dec 16, 2014

Integrating optics and electronics into systems such as fiber-optic data links has revolutionized how we transmit information. A second revolution awaits as researchers seek to develop chips in which individual ...

Fraud-proof credit cards possible with quantum physics

Dec 15, 2014

Credit card fraud and identify theft are serious problems for consumers and industries. Though corporations and individuals work to improve safeguards, it has become increasingly difficult to protect financial ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.