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Photon Counting Technologies PhD Studentship:
New approaches to quantum–based data security


Quantum information examines the application of quantum mechanics to the storage and processing of information. It is a rapidly developing field of research that has caught the interest of both the scientific and general communities. "Web of Science" lists more than ten thousand scientific papers on quantum information, "The Economist" has published thirty–one articles making mention of quantum mechanics in the last twelve months and "Wired" lists nearly one hundred articles on their website over the past four years for quantum mechanics. Much research in the field is primarily theoretical — concerned with generating new protocols or revising the security analysis of existing protocols. Our group is at the forefront of turning new ideas from the theoretical realm into practical lab experiments and advancing quantum information related experimental approaches.

To date quantum key distribution (QKD) has been the prime example of experimental quantum information. QKD permits two authorised parties to generate a cryptographic key with a level of security verified by quantum mechanics, as opposed to the computational difficulty of inverting certain mathematical functions. An unauthorised eavesdropper intercepting the single–photon element of the key generation process will perturb the quantum states of the single photons to an extent which can be quantified by the authorised parties. We have a track record in researching ground breaking QKD systems: for example, work in the field led to the first demonstration of a quantum key distribution system operating at a clock–rate of a gigahertz (and above) over an optical fibre link and the development of a novel environmentally robust test–bed capable of long–term autonomous operation.

These skills have now been applied to a new approach to a different data security issue, digital signatures, which are needed to sign and authenticate a message. The group has developed the world's first experimental demonstration of quantum digital signatures, where the security of the exchange and authentication of the signatures is guaranteed by the fundamental laws of quantum mechanics. Crucially, this system enables the transmission of the same signature from one sender to two receivers and the verification between those two receivers that they have received identical signatures. This is fundamentally different to QKD, which only allows the creation of a shared cryptographic key between one sender and a single receiver (even in a multi-recipient system). Furthermore QKD relies on a pre–shared key for authentication. The group is now looking to expand on the technologies and skills developed in this new approach to further quantum information applications and requires a new PhD student to join them. A suitable applicant will have a 1st class Masters degrees or equivalent in an experimental physics course and be strongly motivated with the drive required to pursue three or more years of intensive practical and theoretical work. They should also be a citizen of an EU country.

Our group has five laboratories (four recently refurbished) with a total floor area of more than 105 m2. The research group has ownership of world–leading state–of–the–art equipment with a total value in excess of 2 million. The research group also has shared access to the expert mechanical and electrical design and assembly facilities and staff with Heriot-Watt University's School of Engineering and Physical Sciences. Strong links have been forged with other researchers both within Heriot-Watt University, at other national and international institutions and in the commercial sector. With four research associates and eight postgraduate students, the equipment and expertise available to the research group allows the rapid development of world–leading experimental systems and test–beds.

To apply: contact Dr Robert J. Collins enclosing a CV and details of two references.

The QKD Lab
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