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ISRO demonstrates hack-proof quantum communication

Published: 15th Feb, 2022

Context

Recently, Scientists from Ahmedabad-based Space Applications Centre and Physical Research Laboratory have successfully demonstrated Quantum Entanglement. 

About

Key-highlights of the experiment

  • Scientists from the two premier laboratories of Department of Space (DOS), Space Applications Centre (SAC) and Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), jointly demonstrated quantum entanglement based real time Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) over 300m atmospheric channel along with quantum-secure text, image transmission and quantum-assisted two-way video calling.
  • The demonstration was conducted at SAC, Ahmedabad, between two buildings separated by a distance of 300 m.
  • This experiment and demonstration were repeated over several nights to ensure the repeatability and robustness of indigenously developed QKD system capable of seamlessly generating and utilizing secure keys for various applications.  
  • With these developments, ISRO, Department of Space is getting ready for satellite based demonstrations of fundamental quantum mechanics experiments as well as quantum communication for future-proof data security.

What is Quantum entanglement?

  • Quantum technology is a class of technology that works by using the principles of quantum mechanics (the physics of sub-atomic particles), including quantum entanglement.
  • Quantum entanglement is when two atoms are connected, or entangled, despite being separated.
  • If you change the properties of one of them, the other changes instantly. 

Quantum entanglement, or at least the principles that describe the phenomenon, was first proposed by Einstein and his colleagues Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen in a 1935 paper in the journal Physical Review titled "Can Quantum-Mechanical Description of Physical Reality Be Considered Complete." 

Quantum communication

  • Quantum communication is one of the safest ways of connecting two places with high levels of code and quantum cryptography that cannot be decrypted or broken by an external entity. 
  • If a hacker tries to crack the message in quantum communication, it changes its form in such a manner that would alert the sender and would cause the message to be altered or deleted.

About this technology

  • Quantum computing refers to a new era of faster and more powerful computers, and the theory goes that they would be able to break current levels of encryption.
  • QKD works by using photons — the particles which transmit light — to transfer data.
  • QKD allows two distant users, who do not share a long secret key initially, to produce a common, random string of secret bits, called a secret key.
  • Using the one-time pad encryption this key is proven to be secure to encrypt and decrypt a message, which can then be transmitted over a standard communication channel.

Significance 

  • The encryption is “unbreakable” and that’s mainly because of the way data is carried via the photon. 
    • A photon cannot be perfectly copied and any attempt to measure it will disturb it. This means that a person trying to intercept the data will leave a trace.
  • The implications could be huge for cybersecurity, making businesses safer, but also making it more difficult for governments to hack into communication.

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