To mark the moment, Portugal Space, in partnership with SKAO and Engage SKA, held a workshop on December 11, called “Embarking on a journey towards discovering the unknown with the SKA”, which was attended by the Portuguese Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education, Manuel Heitor, the Director-General of SKAO, Philip Diamond, and the President of Portugal Space.
Researcher Domingos Barbosa (UA/IT) represented IT at the event, as the local coordinator of the Engage SKA research infrastructure.
Portugal now joins the Netherlands, Italy, South Africa and Australia in finalising their countries’ preparations for the SKAO — the intergovernmental organization that will build the world’s largest radio telescope, with over one million square metres of collecting area.
The Convention (SKA) stipulates that at least five nations, including the three host countries, Australia, South Africa and the UK, must ratify the text for it to enter into force.
With the UK following Portugal, and formally ratifying the convention this Wednesday, December 16, the SKAO can now be formally established.
Portuguese involvement in SKAO will be managed by the Portuguese Space Agency, Portugal Space, acting on behalf of the Portuguese government to promote the country on the international Space scene and strengthen their collaboration on the world stage.
“Portugal’s participation in the SKA programme and the fact that Portugal is a founding member of the SKA Observatory opens new opportunities for young people, researchers, astronomy professionals and amateurs in Portugal to be involved in one of the most revolutionary scientific cooperation initiatives at a global level, which will make it possible to make high-resolution astronomy using any of our computers or portable cell phones,” said Manuel Heitor, Portuguese Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education.
Engage SKA has contributed with several key computing infrastructures, now part of the Portuguese Advanced Computing Network. This includes the 239 TFLOPS supercomputer, Oblivion@SKA inaugurated in February 2020, and the Centre of Competence for Advanced Computing at the University of Aveiro (CCACUA), inaugurated in November 2020.
These facilities are designed to support the wider Portuguese scientific community, and a large share of their compute time will be open to society for studies as diverse as fire monitoring, precision agriculture, green energy, smart factories or the COVID-19 pandemic, in a prime example of radio astronomy’s wider impact in society and in addressing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Among growing demands for data security and encryption technologies in today’s connected world, random number generation remains a critical security element to ensure our safety and trusted communications.
Randomness, quantitatively measured by entropy, is the measure of uncertainty or disorder within a set of data. The higher the level of unpredictability, the more random the data is and the more valuable it becomes, particularly for cryptographic operations.
To that end, the QuRunner project, led by Nuno Silva (IT/UA), aims to design and integrate a fast, secure, and cost-effective quantum random number generator (QRNG) into IT’s internal network.
Quantum-based technologies rely on QRNGs for securing the communications on telecommunication networks, since these generators have proven to maintain security at the highest possible level.
However, “in typical QRNGs schemes, random numbers are generated slowly and with very expensive equipment” says Nuno Silva.
“With this project, our goal is to explore the quantum uncertainty of the quadrature amplitudes of the vacuum state, so we can use the unpredictability and unrepeatability inherent in quantum mechanics to implement a truly random number generator.
“This technique avoids having to use expensive equipment, such as single-photon detectors, and opens the door to higher generation rates of random numbers, with simple integration with classical technology”.
The QuRunner project is a joint effort between the Optical Quantum Communications and Technologies Group, at IT in Aveiro, and the Security and Quantum Information Group at IT in Lisbon. Their research is funded by the FCT (Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia) and the MCTES (Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia e Ensino Superior).
The project will implement a QRNG prototype, giving IT researchers acess to truly random number strings which they can use in computer simulations and in classical or quantum cryptography.
The research team will also make “considerable theoretical efforts to model the experimental devices, design efficient randomness extractors, and study new source device-independent protocols for the QRNG”.
As companies increase the digitalization of their business operations and virtual services expand in the COVID-19 era, new validated QRNG services are an important step towards the development of quantum computing technology.