By Wendy Barnaby
Un-hackable communications should be available by 2025, Professor Jeremy O’Brien will announce at the British Science Festival in Aberdeen. Thieves will find it impossible
to steal online identities, hack into bank accounts or intercept mobile phones.
O’Brien is director of the Centre for Quantum Photonics at the University of Bristol. He and his colleagues have recently found a way of using pulses of light on conventional silicon chips instead of glass substrates. Using silicon will allow the huge advantages of photonic computing to be combined with current manufacturing techniques.
“This is a breakthrough that brings these technologies decades closer to reality”, says O’Brien. “It allows us a route to mass manufacturing.”
The new technology, which uses pulses of light instead of the current pulses of electricity, will use the characteristics of quantum systems to allow secure communication. If any third party were to try to extract the information being sent in a pulse of light, the system would be disturbed and alert the operators. This will mean that the security of internet banking and shopping will depend on the laws of physics rather than on human efforts to make communication safe.
“The new technology will provide secure communications for individuals, corporations and governments,” says O’Brien. “Banking and the military will find the new technology a big plus.”
“The UK is in a world-leading position in these technologies,” he adds.
The new chips, which could sit inside mobile phones as well as computers, will allow us to search the internet much more efficiently. However the killer app will, according to Professor O’Brien, be their ability to design new types of materials: for example, new pharmaceutical drugs or devices for solar cells and other clean energy technology.
Photonic chips in ultra-powerful quantum computers will be able to handle much more complicated calculations than present computers. They will be able to design and test new pharmaceuticals for drugs companies, which will bring new drugs to the market place much more quickly.