03 Feb 2021 |
Research article |
Information and Communications Technologies
Terahertz Waves to Improve Short-Range Encrypted Communications
On December 16, 2020, the Canada Research Chairs Program announced awarding a research chair to François Blanchard, Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at ÉTS: the Canada Research Chair in Spatiotemporal Encryption of Terahertz Light Assisted by Computational Method.
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Our increasingly connected lives require communication systems that can safely transfer ever-greater quantities of data at ever-greater speeds. One way to achieve this is to increase the bandwidth used in communications. In the near future, terahertz light—waves with higher frequencies than microwaves—could improve mobile links, thus allowing broadband signal transfers between base stations. However, using this new bandwidth brings its own set of challenges in hardware design and information protection.
Information Protection in the Physical Layer
Although communication network security is often ensured in the user or transport layer, one of the best ways to protect signals is to work on the physical layer—the hardware—to make hacking more difficult. This is the challenge facing researchers at the Canada Research Chair in Spatiotemporal Encryption of Terahertz Light Assisted by Computational Method.
The encryption method being introduced consists of a mask formed by a special shape of electromagnetic waves, modulated in both space and time. To find the key, the hacker must unlock the mask’s code, known only to the software and constantly changing: quite the task.
New Types of Modulators
Some researchers around the world started working on equipment to develop these masks, but the challenge is daunting since there are virtually no modulators in the terahertz bandwidth. The Chair researchers will therefore first have to build and characterize new modulators. There are several potential approaches to explore: MEMS, metamaterials, laser encryption…
Then, artificial intelligence algorithms will be developed to train modulators to create the masks and decode them. Finally, 3D printing technologies will be explored to facilitate the manufacturing of modulators and to reduce costs.
It is estimated that new communication networks will be two to three orders of magnitude faster for some specific applications. Beyond improved speed, the work of the Chair will allow the development of new modulators and new methods that will also benefit the field of spectroscopy and terahertz imaging.
François Blanchard is a professor in the Electrical Engineering Department at ÉTS. His research projects include terahertz spectroscopy, metamaterials, optoelectronics, optics-photonics, and terahertz microscopy.
Program : Electrical Engineering
Research laboratories : LACIME – Communications and Microelectronic Integration Laboratory