Taking advantage of technology developed to manipulate light on chips, a team based in Spain and Italy has created an integrated circuit that can be used to generate true random numbers by taking advantage of the thoroughly unpredictable nature of quantum mechanics.
The compact approach, which might one day find its way into smartphones and tablets, could be a boon for engineers hoping to keep financial transactions and other communications secure. Random numbers are a vital ingredient in the encryption schemes we rely on to secure data, and they’re also a powerful tool in computational modeling.
Systems that obey the rules of quantum mechanics, could be impossible nuts to crack. “Quantum physics, by definition, is fully unpredictable no matter what. There is no way that somebody can guess future numbers based on current information.
They say the next step is to integrate the chip with conventional CMOS electronics to turn the output of the system into random numbers that can be used by software. Here too, he expects the team will take advantage of photonics integrated circuit manufacturing techniques that have been built up over the years, in particular a way of pairing silicon and other materials, called hybrid integration.
Photo: Daniel Bartolome and Ona Bombí/ICFO Two quantum random number sources were built on this 6 mm x 2 mm photonic integrated circuit, which is juxtaposed against a 1-cent euro coin.
(Courtesy. Rachel Courtland )