RESEARCH USES DIAMONDS IN DEVICE THAT COULD BREAK CODES
Quantum physicists in Hefei, Anhui province in China are engaged in what could be a breakthrough achievement: In a process called “factorization”, they are using a quantum computing device, built inside a diamond, to break down the number 35 into its factors – 7 and 5.
If successful, this experiment could result in a new tech that will make quantum code-breaking a possibility, meaning that the digital encryption technologies that protect banks, governments and the military could be breakable in the near future.
The research, led by Prof. Du Jiangfeng at the University of Science and Technology of China, was published in the journal Physical Review Letters in March.
What the scientists are trying to decode is the hugely popular RSA algorithm, named after the three men who came up with it in the 1970s: Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir and Leonard Adleman. The RSA algorithm uses the product of two large prime numbers to encrypt a message. Since it is impossible to factor the product of two prime numbers when they are sufficiently large, it would take considerable digital computing power and thousands of years to determine the prime numbers used in the RSA system.
In the experiment, Prof. Du Jiangfeng and his team of quantum physicists fired laser and microwave beams at particles trapped inside the “nitrogen-vacancy center” of the diamond. The result: the particles came up with the solution in two microseconds. This speed, as mentioned above, is crucial to code-breaking.
However, there are quite a few technical obstacles to overcome before the device could be used to break a code – from precise control of particles to purer synthetic diamonds.