Quantum key distribution (QKD)
A practical example of quantum key distribution (QKD)
Quantum key distribution (QKD) is a method for securely transmitting a cryptographic key over an optical communication channel. Here's a practical example of how it works:
- Alice and Bob share a long optical fiber that is used for communication.
- Alice uses a random number generator to create a secret key and encodes it onto single photons of light.
- Alice sends the encoded photons to Bob through the optical fiber.
- Bob measures the photons to determine the key.
- To ensure the security of the key, they use quantum mechanics to detect any eavesdropping attempts on the optical fiber. If any tampering is detected, they discard the key and start over.
- Once they have agreed on a secure key, they can use it to encrypt and decrypt messages transmitted over the optical fiber using conventional cryptography methods.
- This process provides a secure key for communication because any attempt to measure the photons will inevitably disturb them, which can be detected by Alice and Bob. This makes it possible for them to detect eavesdropping attempts and ensure the security of their communication.
Can quantum key distribution be performed without an optical fiber channel?
Quantum key distribution (QKD) can be performed without an optical fiber channel. While optical fibers have been the most common type of channel used in QKD, there are other methods that can be used to transmit the quantum signals, including free space communication, which uses laser beams to transmit the signals through the air. Other potential channels include satellite links, microwave links, and even electrical power lines. The key requirement for a QKD channel is that it allows the transmission of single photons or weak coherent pulses, which can be used to encode the secret key.