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 A Laser System That Produces Random Numbers At Superfast Speeds

An international team of scientists has created a method that can produce random numbers more than a hundred times faster than existing technology, paving the way for faster, cheaper, and more reliable data encryption in today's digitally linked world.

The random generator technology was developed jointly by researchers from Yale University. Nanyang Technology University, Singapore and Trinity College Dublin, and was developed at NTU, Singapore.

Random numbers are utilized for various purposes, such as generating one-time passwords (OTPs) and data encryption keys in day-to-day processes such as e-commerce and online banking to improve their security.

The machine uses a laser with a unique hourglass-shaped cavity to create random patterns created by light rays reflecting and interacting inside the cavity. By reading patterns, the system produces a set of random numbers at the same time.

The researchers discovered that, like snowflakes, no two sequences produced by the device were the same due to the random nature of how light rays reflect and communicate with each other in the cavity.

The laser used in the machine is about one millimeter long, shorter than most other lasers. Also, it is energy efficient and can be powered from any household power socket since it takes only a current of one-ampere (1A).

The Report

In their report released in one of the world's topmost scientific journals on 26 February 2021, researchers checked their random number generator's efficacy using two samples, including the one published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, United States.

The research team has shown that the random number generator made by  NTU, which is quicker and more reliable than current, comparable technology, could help protect user data in an increasingly dependent era on Internet transactions.

Professor Wang Qijie, who led the NTU team involved in the international research, said, "Current random number generators operated by computers are effective and cheap. However, they are vulnerable to threats since hackers will forecast potential number sequences if they find the algorithm used to produce numbers. Our machine is simpler because it uses an arbitrary approach to produce numbers, making it difficult for even those of the same device to reproduce."

Dr. Zeng Yongquan, a research fellow at the School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, NTU, Singapore, who co-built the laser system, said: "Our machine surpasses existing random number generators because the process can simultaneously produce several more random sequences of information at an even faster pace."

The systems can also produce over 250 terabytes of random bits per second— over a hundred times faster than existing computer-based random number generators.

At its speed, the machine will only take about 12 seconds to produce a body of random numbers equal to the knowledge size in the world’s largest library — the US Library of Congress.

The Future

Expantiating the device's future, the team is focusing on getting the technology ready for practical application by combining the laser into a small chip that allows random numbers produced to be fed directly to the computer.


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