The Universe operates on laws of physics that govern everything, including our choices. However, in a patch of empty space, randomness exists in a way that engineers can exploit to create truly unpredictable results. Researchers from institutions in Belgium, Denmark, and Italy have developed innovative technology that allows them to tap into this randomness, generating 100 gigabits of data every second.
Quantum Systems and Quantum Foam
Events that we typically think of as random, such as a coin toss or a storm, are not truly random but rather governed by complex cause-and-effect relationships. The same cannot be said for quantum systems. When observed closely, a particle’s energy is a spectrum of possibility, and its position becomes unknowable if its energy is known with absolute precision. Empty space follows the same quantum rules, with energy present that includes possibilities that could generate particles, known as “virtual” particles, which exist in a quantum way and flicker in and out of existence in what scientists call quantum foam.
Generating Random Data
Quantum foam affects a range of physical phenomena, and researchers have found a way to exploit it for random data generation. The challenge has been finding a reliable method that doesn’t require a lot of equipment or slow down the process. The researchers used an integrated balanced homodyne detector, which measures the electric field of a quantum state to track virtual particles. To deal with environmental noise that interferes with the readings, they integrated technology that identifies potential sources of interference and takes them into account, improving the system’s sensitivity to actual random fluctuations. The result is a chip-scale platform that can generate reliable random numbers for encryption and other purposes.
Random numbers are useful in various fields, and the need for secure data transfer continues to grow. The technology developed by these researchers provides a reliable means of generating random data, which can be used in encryption, unbiased study samples, and even games like Dungeons and Dragons. With the ability to generate truly random data, the possibilities are endless.
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