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China's quantum satellite just sent back unbreakable code from space

12 August 2017, 03:40 | Melvin Schneider

China sends “unbreakable” quantum code from satellite

China's quantum satellite successfully sends hack-proof message

Pan Jianwei, lead scientist on the experiment from the state-run Chinese Academy of Sciences, was quoted by the state media saying that, during that time, 300 kbit secure keys are both generated and sent.

The messages were transmitted via light, and any attempt to "eavesdrop" on the communication would be instantly detected. QKD uses photons to transmit data, allowing two users in different places to, together, produce a common string of random bits called a secret key.

Quantum communication scientists have a fundamental interest in distributing entangled particles over increasingly long distances and studying the behavior of entanglement under extreme conditions.

One way to improve distribution lies in the protocol of quantum repeaters, whose practical usefulness, however, is hindered by the challenges of simultaneously realizing and integrating all key capabilities. The tech would also make it far more hard for governments to spy on private communications - something that global leaders and agencies around the world have a vested interest in. The main advantage of this approach is that most of the photons' transmission path is nearly in vacuum, with nearly zero absorption and de-coherence.

"Satellite-based quantum key distribution can be linked to metropolitan quantum networks where fibres are sufficient and convenient to connect numerous users within a city over 100 km". Quantum communications on moving platforms in a high-loss situation and under turbulent conditions were also tested.

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China launched the world's first quantum satellite, nicknamed "Micius" after a 5th Century Chinese philosopher and scientist, on August 16, 2016. It used satellites to overcome distance restrictions that would apply on the ground.

Ground-based encryption systems that use entangled photons have been available for years.

The communication distance between the satellite and the ground station varies from 645 kilometers to 1,200 kilometers, and the quantum key transmission rate from satellite to ground is up to 20 orders of magnitude more efficient than that expected using an optical fiber of the same length, said Pan. Another immediate application is to exploit distributed entanglement to perform a variant of quantum teleportation protocol for remote preparation and control of quantum states.

The latest achievement is based on the experiments conducted with QUESS, which sent quantum keys to ground stations in Xinglong and Nanshan, China.



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