AUSTRALIA: Researchers make waves with photon technology

Scientists at the University of Melbourne have hit commercial success less than 12 months after creating a prototype for an innovative communications technology. Researchers have sold their single photon source apparatus to a Germany agency run by that country's government.

Details of the sale, including the price of the technology and the exact dates of the transfer, are confidential. But product development director Dr Steve Trpkovski said the revenues would benefit the university and its various project partners, including Quantum Communications Victoria, which used the university's physics facilities and scientists to develop the product.

The Australian state of Victoria gave Quantum Communications A$3.3 million (US$2.6 million) to create the prototype last year. In a university communiqué, Trpkovski said: "This sale and ongoing sales are the payback; by selling our products globally we help stimulate the economy and create more jobs in Victoria. We didn't want our technology just to sit in a lab."

The technology is designed to ensure highly secure communications channels using single photons, the smallest particle of light, for organisations such as governments. Trpkovski said it represented a new type of cryptography and guaranteed absolute security because it used quantum physics rather than math algorithms to encrypt codes on data.

The new product is called the SPS1.01, and it generates quantum keys that are almost impossible to crack, leaving eavesdroppers with undecipherable information and companies with a secure line to transfer sensitive information.

Although he could not share details, Trpkovski said in an email that several more sales had been made. He added the sales would continue to grow: "We expect the market size to increase over the next decade as potential clients become more familiar with the technology and new applications arise," he said.