A group at the University of Glasgow has found a unique way to generate random numbers through the randomness inherent in crystal growth. In their paper featured in the journal Matter, the researchers describe utilizing chemistry to coin random numbers for use in different applications.
Generating random numbers has always been a tricky problem for computer engineers as a result of computers had been created to be as predictable as possible.
However, random numbers are required in a wide variety of functions in virtually every scientific field.
One of the more pressing applications is data encryption—most schemes depend on the constant creation of random numbers. Without randomness, computer systems planned to crack encryption can soon spot a sample, making it relatively easy to crack the encryption code.
In this new attempt, the group has turned to a real-world process proven to be more random than pseudo-random number generators—a chemical reaction by which a material starts crystallizing.
The process of crystallization is random because of many factors that come into play as chemical compounds in a liquid solution evolve from a disorganized state to one that is organized. The method demonstrates multiple random traits, from its geometry to its creation time.
To benefit from the randomness of the crystallization process, the researchers created a crystallization range, virtually a cupcake baking pan in miniature.
They attached a reagent container and a means for inputting different chemical compounds into the cups. A camera took a photograph of each of the cups as crystal formation started.
Each of the images was converted to a zero or a one based on nothing; however, the geography of the crystal.