A new technique for scattering laser light may prove to be a particularly fast and efficient means for generating real random numbers. This method might be used in encryption or creating secure communications technologies to deter hackers. In their approach, scientists from Canada’s National Research Council use a laser pulse with a duration of mere trillionths of a second that is aimed at a small diamond crystal.
The number is created through the laser’s interactions with random vacuum fluctuations. These, in turn, randomly change the laser’s incoming photons, explains Popular Science. The photons’ signals are amplified, then measured. This information is converted into binary. This process allows the system to generate real random numbers, but of most interest are the bit sequences that can be generated and used to rapidly encrypt or scramble data so that the information — email or other communications such as financial transactions — cannot be intercepted and used by a third-party. Random data created at speeds in the gigabit-per-second range were demonstrated by the researchers, who say that these techniques can easily be scaled based on the underlying technologies.
“This has the potential to scale to extraordinarily fast rates, which is becoming more and more important as information networks expand and there are higher data rate requirements,” said researcher Benjamin Sussman in an interview with the Ottawa Citizen.
Numbers generated in conventional cryptographic systems aren’t truly random. They are known as pseudo-random numbers because they appear to be randomly strung in a sequence to the casual onlooker; however, these numbers are ultimately created by humans relying on the rules of logic. So any numbers generated by algorithms aren’t random. Even dice rolls are subject to the laws of physics. Numbers generated by quantum fluctuations — which are truly uncertain — are a promising security solution. Such technology would also have applications in random number generation for online gaming.
“A truly random number generator will provide impenetrable encryption for communications — be they military transmissions, secure banking, or online purchasing — that underpin the modern connected world,” said Sussman.
The complete research results were recently published in Optics Express.
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Linda Dailey Paulson is a professional journalist for Sunray Laser Equipment, a company that strives to be a best of breed provider of new and used cosmetic laser equipment. Paulson has been covering science and technology for over twenty years.