Securing links against eavesdropping has remained an unsolved problem since the dawn of communication. At present, public systems tend to use protocols based on mathematical complexity, but these are vulnerable to intelligent attacks and the ever-increasing power of computers.
Quantum Base Ltd provides quantum security to address this problem by exploiting a basic principle of quantum physics; when an unknown quantum state is transmitted it cannot be read without unintentionally altering it, thus allowing the sender and receiver to detect the presence of an eavesdropper by monitoring the channel.
This technology has been proven to provide ultimate security, but only in bulky systems that are expensive to purchase. Adoption has been hampered by these flaws. Quantum Base Ltd wanted help to develop single photonic circuits, at the micron-scale, which could perform the functions of both the transmitter and receiver of the quantum security system.
- Semiconductor physics
- Finite-difference-time-domain techniques
The company developed and produced proof-of-principle photonic circuits for use in a range of security solutions that rely on quantum physics to provide security. A post-doctoral research assistant was employed to create cutting-edge semiconductor systems with standard, mass-manufacturing processes to produce the devices, which are small, low-cost, and have a small power footprint. The majority of the work was conducted in Lancaster University's Quantum Technology Centre.
Photonic circuits for quantum communications were simulated and optimised using finite-difference-time domain techniques, fabricated in the Quantum Technology Centre’s cleanroom, and tested in a quantum optics laboratory.
The total cost of the project for staff, travel expenses and materials was £60,315, of which £35,315 supplied by Quantum Base Ltd, and £25,000 funded through the Impact Acceleration Account (IAA). The Impact Acceleration Account is £600,000 funding from the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council to finance a range of activities designed to foster greater collaboration with industry, and bridge the gap between the lab and the marketplace.
The company hopes to demonstrate working prototypes of single photonic circuits and forward this technology to be ready for mass-market production. They are targeting compact, practical and cheap solutions while their competitors are seeking long-haul high-bandwidth solutions using expensive components. Devices produced will be protected with patents. The combination of working prototypes and patents will be used to find companies willing to licence intellectual property.
The technology developed will enable quantum key distribution to be integrated into almost any device, securing the information it carries.
Benefits to the company
- Potential to gain a large advantage over competitors with compact, practical and cheap solutions, while their competitors are seeking long-haul high-bandwidth solutions using expensive components
- Allowed a proof-of-concept prototype to be created
- Accelerated the development of the product
- Benefitted from commercialisation research
- Potential development of product suitable for mass-market production
- Access to a quantum optics laboratory
Benefits to the university
- Gave researchers a chance to develop and apply research
- Helped support a university spin-out company
Benefits to society
- Potential to enable quantum key distribution to be integrated into almost any device, securing the information it carries
“The ability to partner with a world-class institution such as Lancaster, and the benefits that bring - both in terms of cutting-edge facilities and A-class calibre people - means that we have a real chance of building a great British company, capable of innovating and creating a real-world impact on a global scale. We are truly grateful to everyone who is helping Quantum Base achieve its objective of bringing simple, practical quantum solutions into mass-market deployment.”
Phillip Speed, Quantum Base Ltd.
“Working with Quantum Base is a means to transition technology developed in my group from the lab to exciting commercial applications; something that I am incredibly passionate about achieving. In the last fifty years, our lives have been radically changed for the better by the digital information revolution, and I believe that in the near future quantum information will have a similar impact. Quantum security is one of the first applications of quantum information, and on its own, it has incredible promise. Quantum Base is helping to guide the development of our technologies in directions that are suitable for a range of different markets. This guidance is vital to the success of this technology.”
Dr Robert Young, Quantum Technology Centre, Lancaster University.
Intellectual property generated in this project will be exploited and used to seed the development of a range of devices in further partnerships between Quantum Base and Lancaster University.
This project represents the first of a series of technologies that Quantum Base Ltd want to develop in collaboration with Lancaster University. The company hopes that its potential success will enable the joint-application for larger Innovate UK quantum technology projects.