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Stopping computer hackers in their tracks with the power of…sticky tape?

27 August 2021

Everything from private social media messaging to banking could become more secure due to new technology created with a humble piece of adhesive tape.

(Image: Shutterstock)
(Image: Shutterstock)

Researchers from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and TMOS, an Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence, have taken the fight to online hackers with a giant leap towards realising affordable, accessible quantum communications, a technology that would effectively prevent the decryption of online activity. 

Quantum communication is still in its early development and is currently feasible only in very limited fields due to the costs associated with fabricating the required devices. The TMOS researchers have developed a new technology that integrates quantum sources and waveguides on chip in a manner that is both affordable and scalable, paving the way for future everyday use.

The development of fully functional quantum communication technologies has previously been hampered by the lack of reliable quantum light sources that can encode and transmit the information.

In a paper published in ACS Photonics, the team describes a new platform to generate these quantum emitters based on hexagonal boron nitride, also known as white graphene. Where current quantum emitters are created using complex methods in expensive clean rooms, these new quantum emitters can be created using $20 worth of white graphene pressed onto a piece of adhesive tape.

These 2D materials can be pressed onto a sticky surface such as the adhesive tape and exfoliated, which is essentially peeling off the top layer to create a flex. Multiple layers of this flex can then be assembled in a Lego-like style, offering a new bottom-up approach as a substitute for 3D systems.

TMOS Chief Investigator, Igor Aharonovich, said: “2D materials, like hexagonal boron nitride, are emerging materials for integrated quantum photonics, and are poised to impact the way we design and engineer future optical components for secured communication.”

In addition to this evolution in photon sources, the team has developed a high-efficiency on-chip waveguide, a vital component for on-chip optical processing.

Lead author, Chi Li, said: “Low signal levels have been a significant barrier preventing quantum communications from evolving into practical, workable models. We hope that with this new development, quantum comms will become an everyday technology that improves people’s lives in new and exciting ways.”


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