Methods

Fundamental to the Hub’s objectives is Quantum Key Distribution (QKD), a currently available technology for the secure distribution of secret keys which can be used for data encryption and other applications.

Standard communication scenarios usually involve transmitter and receiver units, traditionally described as “Alice” and “Bob” respectively. Quantum physics dictates that at the scale of individual particles (such as photons, particles comprising light), their quantum properties cannot be measured without being unavoidably and irrevocably disturbed from their original state. This means that no interceptor (or hacker) can eavesdrop on quantum transmissions, without their presence becoming known to Alice and Bob. This disturbance is due to quantum uncertainty and it is a fundamental feature of quantum physics. It underpins all current work in the field of quantum communications.

Although immediately detectable, the presence of an eavesdropper can still be disruptive, for example through denial of service attacks. When service is not denied, from the information communicated Alice and Bob can distil random data (the “key”) that only they know. QKD systems generate such shared secret keys, which can then be used for data encryption and other applications based on conventional communication techniques.

The key generation, distribution and replenishment is underpinned by quantum uncertainty, thus offering to any two communicating parties security based on the laws of quantum physics.

Demonstrations of quantum communications systems have existed for a number of years now, but with limitations on their capabilities that have prevented large scale commercialisation of these technologies. The grand vision of our Hub is to develop new quantum communications technologies that will overcome these limitations, enabling widespread use and adoption – from government and commerce through to consumers and the home.

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