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Past Winner
2011 E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship

Roberto Morandotti

Energy, materials and telecommunications

Institut national de la recherche scientifique


Roberto Morandotti
Roberto Morandotti

Mobile devices and the Internet have revolutionized communications, but using these publicly accessible networks to send private information poses security risks. Although encryption codes are widely used, most can be broken by a determined hacker. Digital security is a priority for business, consumers and governments, whether purchasing on-line or transmitting military secrets.

Roberto Morandotti, a Professor at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique, is conducting research that would make it possible to send secure electronic messages with unbreakable codes. For his groundbreaking research, he is a recipient of a 2011 E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship.

Dr. Morandotti is putting into practice what, until now, has been only a theory. Physicists and engineers believe that entangled photon pairs (two photons that behave as one, even when physically far apart) could transmit unbreakably encoded messages. These entangled photons can be separated and then rejoined. They cannot function independently, since the properties of one photon depend on those of the other. They would join together again only upon reaching their intended recipient, making it impossible to eavesdrop on a telecommunications channel.

The idea has remained a theory because there has been no way to plug entangled photons into existing telecommunication networks. Dr. Morandotti, together with an international network of research partners, is developing a new device to overcome this problem. A high performance resonator will be designed to deliver entangled photons to existing optical networks. The device can be fabricated from existing materials and made commercially available. Once in place, absolute security of information will be possible on telecommunication networks.

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