Meet The World’s Fastest Random Number Generator

Don’t be fooled by its tiny size—a new laser can generate 254 trillion random numbers per second.

AsianScientist (Mar. 26, 2021) – Scientists have developed a laser that can generate 254 trillion random numbers per second—a rate over a hundred times faster than current technologies. Their findings are detailed in Science.

In a post-pandemic world where online banking and shopping reign supreme, ensuring the security of these transactions is a top priority. A common way of protecting such transactions from would-be hackers or fraudsters is the one-time password (OTP), where a string of random numbers is sent to a device to authenticate a transaction. Such random numbers are also used to encrypt personal information, like credit card numbers and passwords, allowing data to be securely transferred over the Internet.

As more and more aspects of everyday life shift online, scientists are increasingly looking for new ways to make data encryption safer and more efficient. With the help of a laser, a team from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU)—along with collaborators from Yale University and Trinity College Dublin—has done exactly that.

Aside from producing light, lasers can also generate random number sequences based on periodic fluctuations in the light’s intensity. However, to create uniform beams, conventional lasers are often designed to minimize such fluctuations—limiting their capacity to quickly generate random numbers.

This time around, the researchers aimed for the exact opposite: instead of casting a steady beam, they developed a laser with a special hourglass-shaped cavity that produces random flickers of light. These unpredictable fluctuations then form the basis of strings of random numbers. Much like snowflakes, the team found that no two number sequences generated using the laser were the same, due to the chaotic nature of the light’s interactions within the cavity.

Despite the laser’s tiny, one millimeter-length, the team found that it could generate about 254 trillion random numbers per second—over a hundred times faster than other technologies. At this speed, the system would take only about 12 seconds to generate a body of random numbers equivalent to the amount of information in the US Library of Congress—the world’s largest library.

Aside from being incredibly powerful, the laser is also energy-efficient and can even be operated with any household power socket. Moving forward, the team is working to integrate the laser onto chips, allowing the random numbers to be transmitted directly into computers for easy encryption.

“Current random number generators run by computers are cheap and effective. However, they are vulnerable to attacks, as hackers could predict future number sequences if they discover the algorithm used to generate the numbers,” concluded study co-author Professor Wang Qijie from NTU. “Our system is safer as it uses an unpredictable method to generate numbers, making it impossible for even those with the same device to replicate.”

The article can be found at: Kim et al. (2021) Massively Parallel Ultrafast Random Bit Generation With a Chip-scale Laser.


Source: Nanyang Technological University; Photo: Pixabay.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Asian Scientist Magazine is an award-winning science and technology magazine that highlights R&D news stories from Asia to a global audience. The magazine is published by Singapore-headquartered Wildtype Media Group.

Related Stories from Asian Scientist