Quantum Communication Satellite

Existing communications systems are not hack-proof. Therefore, Raman Research Institute (RRI) in Bengaluru has joined hands with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to develop the quantum technologies that ISRO’s satellites would need to establish such a network that secure communications.

Quantum communication exploits a bizarre phenomenon of quantum mechanics – called “quantum entanglement” – in which photons (which are particles of light) are “linked” together in such a way that they affect one another no matter how far apart they are. They appear to be connected to each other, as if by magic, and behave as a single physical object. Because a third party cannot tamper with the photons without destroying their “entanglement”, there’s no way to eavesdrop undetected.

Step towards Quantum Satellite

On August 16, China said it had launched a quantum satellite into space that could be the future of wireless communication and set new standards in Internet security. “The project tests a technology that could one day offer digital communication that is hack-proof”. Called Micius, after the ancient Chinese scientist and philosopher, the 600-kg satellite will try to communicate with earth using the principle of quantum entanglement, whereby subatomic particles become inextricably linked or “entangled” in such a way that any change in one disturbs the other even if both are at opposite ends of the universe. This means any attempt at hacking entangled particles would, even in principle, be impossible.

How it works

Quantum privacy in many ways should be like the encryption that already keeps our financial data private online. Before sensitive information is shared between shopper and online shop, the two exchange a complicated number that is then used to scramble the subsequent characters. It also hides the key that will allow the shop to unscramble the text securely. The weakness is that the number itself can be intercepted, and with enough computing power, cracked.

Quantum cryptography, as it is called, goes one step further, by using the power of quantum science to hide the key. As one of the founders of quantum mechanics Werner Heisenberg realised over 90 years ago, any measurement or detection of a quantum system, such as an atom or photon of light, uncontrollably and unpredictably changes the system. This quantum uncertainty is the property that allows those engaged in secret communications to know if they are being spied on: the eavesdropper’s efforts would mess up the connection.

1. The Hindu
2. The Indian Express
3. BBC News

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