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In most leading security standards used in secure communication methods — from withdrawing cash from the ATM to purchasing goods online on the smartphone — the electronic transmission of the personal identification number (PIN) or password can be intercepted.

Researchers at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) have developed a quantum communication chip that is 1,000 times smaller than current quantum setups, but offers the same superior security quantum technology is known for.

Roughly 3mm in size, the tiny chip they developed uses quantum communication algorithms to provide enhanced security compared to existing standards. 

How does it work? The chip integrates passwords within the information that is being delivered, forming a secure ‘quantum key.’ After the information is received, it is destroyed along with the key, making it an extremely secure form of communication.

It also needs 1,000 times less space than current quantum communication setups that can be as big as a refrigerator or even take up the space of an entire room or office floor. 

This opens doors for more secure communication technologies that can be deployed in compact devices such as smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches. It also lays the foundation for better encryption methods for online transactions and electronic communication, according to scitechdaily.com.

Assoc Prof Kwek Leong Chuan explains that quantum communication works by using randomized strings of code to encrypt the information, which can only be opened by the intended recipient with the correct ‘key’. There is no need for additional passwords or biometric data to be transmitted, which is the standard practice in current forms of communication.

“It is like sending a secured letter. Imagine that the person who wrote the letter locked the message in an envelope with its ‘key’ also inside it. The recipient needs the same ‘key’ to open it. Quantum technology ensures that the key distribution is secure, preventing any tampering to the ‘key,’” said Assoc Prof Kwek, a physicist at NTU’s National Institute of Education.

Research leader Professor Liu Ai Qun, from NTU’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, said, “In today’s world, cybersecurity is very important as so much of our data are stored and communicated digitally. Almost all digital platforms and repositories require users to input their passwords and biometric data, and as long as this is the case, it could be eavesdropped on or deciphered. Quantum technology eliminates this as both the password and information are integrated within the message being sent, forming a ‘quantum key.’”

The findings were published in Nature Photonics.