SHANGHAI – China’s first quantum communication satellite, put into space a year ago to facilitate hack proof communications, has sent an “unbreakable” code to Earth, laying the groundwork for building a global network of quantum communication, Chinese state media reported Thursday.
China has now become the first to successfully distribute space-to-ground quantum keys after putting the satellite in space last August from the Jiuquan Space Launch Center in the Gobi Desert at an altitude of 500 kilometres (311 miles).
Satellite-based quantum key distribution can be connected to metropolitan quantum networks and help connect users within a city over 100 kilometers, which “can meet the demand of making an absolute safe phone call or transmitting a large amount of bank data,” Pan Jianwei, lead scientist on the experiment from the state-run Chinese Academy of Sciences said.
The communication distance between the satellite and the terrestrial station varies between 645 kilometers to 1,200 kilometers, Pan said according to official news agency Xinhua.
The report added the transmission speed of the quantum key is up to 20 orders of magnitude more efficient than an optical fiber of the same length.
According to Xinhua the results of the experiment have been published in the prestigious academic journal Nature.
Quantum communication is based on changes in the status of subatomic particles such as photons and could be used for faster and hack-proof transmission of data.
The United States, Europe and Japan have already experimented with surface-based quantum communication, but China is the first to carry the research into space.
Scientists expect quantum communications – with its possible applications in fields such as defense or finance – to fundamentally change human development in the next two or three decades.