A research team at Wits has discovered how to use quantum physics to improve data transmission across fibre networks.
Wits PhD student Isaac Nape worked alongside his supervisor and a team from China to ensure that data security is increased on fibre networks.
“Our team showed that multiple patterns of light are accessible through conventional optical fibre that can only support a single pattern,” said Nape.
“We achieved this ‘quantum trick’ by engineering the entanglement of two photons. We sent the polarised photon down the fibre line and accessed many other patterns with the other photon.”
Nape is from Gauteng, and moved to different areas of the province a few times as a child.
“I constantly had the opportunity of reinventing myself wherever we lived. I was fascinated with everything!”
This meant that he has dabbled in various pastimes and activities which have helped him to develop into a well-rounded person.
“I taught myself how to play guitar in university, participated a lot of competitive dancing competitions reaching up national level while representing my high school, and even won a telescope for my primary school at a regional astronomy quiz.”
This passion for science saw him decide to study Physics at university. He completed his Honours degree at the University of Pretoria, working alongside Professor Manyala, who is a Carbon-Nano technology expert.
“I was learning how to synthesise supercapacitors for about two years but wanted something more abstract but yet applicable,” said Nape.
He said that he had always loved quantum physics, meaning that when the opportunity arose to work alongside his current supervisor, Professor Forbes, he jumped at the opportunity.
He completed his Master’s degree under Forbes’ supervision and decided to continue his studies by doing his PhD.
Quantum physics and data security
Nape said that when he received the opportunity to combine quantum physics and data security in his studies, he jumped at the opportunity.
“The idea of using quantum physics to develop cutting edge technology, relevant to ICT, was mesmerizing,” said Nape.
“Since our work primarily involves optics here at the Structured Light Lab, you are bound to play around with fibres at some point. There are some interesting research questions from the fibre world in quantum communication, and my supervisor is fond of taking on interesting challenges!”
Nape said that in the quantum physics field, there are still many opportunities to take broad concepts and frameworks and apply them to real-world applications.
“I get to play around with intriguing and ambiguous concepts from physics and apply them to solve real-world problems.”
“Moreover, because optics is such wide and broad field I find myself involved in many interesting projects and not just limited to one specific field,” he added.
Plans for the future
Nape said that he hopes to expose himself to ideas beyond the borders of South Africa, and has already visited German, China, and the UK during his PhD.
Beyond this, he said he’d like to convince government departments and private entities to invest more into quantum technologies.
“China, Europe and the USA are throwing billions into quantum research because they understand how valuable it is for security (military), communication and computing,” said Nape.
“I hope to be one of the few to compete internationally with private companies by using this technology in the future. So I hope I find myself in a company or research institute that will allow me to develop quantum-based tech.”
Advice for young minds
Nape said that those with crucial minds must ensure that they find the right supervisor, as this guidance is critical to your development in the science and technology fields.
“There is a wealth of knowledge out there waiting for curious minds like yours. With the right guidance you can navigate through it with ease,” said Nape.
“Once you have found your way around it, work, create and invent,” said Nape.
“Developing new technology requires creativity and the right set of skills. That can only be achieved by learning from the right people and applying yourself effectively.”
Isaac Nape’s tech choices
MyBroadband asked Isaac Nape about his tech and business choices.
Which smartphone do you use?
- Stylo S49 MONO. A very limited phone but it helps me to avoid unnecessary distractions.
Which laptop do you use?
- Dell, Core i7 Processor, 16GB RAM. Real horsepower!
What is the best gadget you have ever bought?
- Xbox One. Playing games occasionally and winning makes me feel accomplished even when I’m at my lowest. Rather that than destroying my liver.
What is the worst gadget you have ever bought?
- None. If it seems useless I don’t buy it at all.
What Internet connection (fixed broadband) do you have at home?
What is the best ICT/technology book you have ever read?
- I spend more time reading research articles from the quantum communication community.