Quantum cryptography pioneer Artur Ekert recognised

Prof Ekert has been recognised for his pioneering invention in quantum entanglement

Professor Artur Ekert, Director of the Centre for Quantum Technologies (CQT) at NUS and a pioneer of quantum cryptography, was one of six winners of the Micius Quantum Prize 2019 for his invention of entanglement-based quantum key distribution, entanglement swapping and entanglement purification.

The prize is administered by the Micius Quantum Foundation, a recently established entity in China supported by donations from private entrepreneurs. The Foundation aims to promote the second quantum revolution and honour scientists who have made outstanding contributions in the field of quantum communications, quantum simulation, quantum computation and quantum metrology. Each of this year’s honorees will receive a prize of some $200,000 (one million Chinese yuan).  

“China is making great investments and advances in quantum technology. I appreciate that the Micius Quantum Foundation has established prizes to recognise the scientific work that laid the foundations for today’s emerging technologies,” said Prof Ekert, who is also the Lee Kong Chian Centennial Professor at NUS.

Prof Ekert invented the entanglement-based quantum key distribution (QKD) in 1991, when he was a PhD student. Entanglement-based QKD is a technique to generate encryption keys for secure communication that is resistant to all known and future computational hacking. QKD also offers the ability to detect the presence of third parties or “eavesdroppers”. In 2017, the Chinese satellite Micius sent entangled quantum particles from space to two ground stations in China and Austria that are 1,200 kilometres apart, breaking a previous world record. This achievement brought the possibility of a global ultrasecure communication network and space-based quantum internet closer to reality. CQT is also developing quantum communication satellites.

On the ground, too, the technique is being developed for commercial application. CQT is working with Singtel to demonstrate this type of QKD over deployed fibre. The Centre also has a collaboration with the Infocomm Media Development Authority to build local capabilities in quantum technologies, including pilot QKD trials.

The Micius Quantum Prize awards ceremony will be held in September, during the International Conference on Emerging Quantum Technologies.