Tiny Satellites Could Distribute Quantum Keys

Unbreakable quantum keys that use the laws of physics to protect their secrets could be transmitted from orbiting devices a person could lift with one hand, according to experiments conducted from the International Space Station.

Researchers launched a tiny, experimental satellite loaded with optics that could emit entangled pairs of photons. Entangled photons share quantum mechanical properties in such a way that measuring the state of one member of the pair—such as its polarization—instantly tells you what the state of its partner is. Such entanglement could be the basis for quantum key distribution, in which cryptographic keys are used to decode messages. If an eavesdropper were to intercept one of the photons and measure it, that would change the state of both, and the user would know the key had been compromised.

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