A Quantum Leap Forward

Sunday, 03 December, 2000

The development and success of Australia's communications and banking industries could hinge on the outcomes of vital research in a lab at the ANU Canberra.

The Australian Research Council (ARC) is funding the university's Dr Ping Lam to adapt quantum mechanics (the laws of physics at the microscopic level) to areas such as communications, cryptography (the sending of information in code for security reasons) and - in an exciting new development - teleportation (annihilating an object and reconstructing it in another location in seconds).

Dr Lam is working on ways to significantly improve the speed of communications and the security of encrypted messages - both of which will be crucial to the development of Australia's communications and banking industries.

"While the use of cryptography to send secret messages is well established it has never been able to be made 100% secure," Dr Lam said.

"These massages can be made completely secure using quantum mechanics. Such breakthroughs are of great interest to the major telecommunication and credit card companies and banks, which have to rely on secret codes to keep track of transactions.

Dr Lam is also working on providing alternatives to laying additional optic fibre to ease information traffic. "We are working on ways to enable super-dense coding of optical information so that more information can be transmitted and at a faster rate utilising the exisiting cabling and other hardware", he said.

Finally, teleportation is no longer simply Star Trek fiction. Significant breakthroughs are being made in measuring and destroying photons, storing and transporting their information and then reconstructing them at another place.

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