Dr Abdul Mirza, one of the central figures behind the success of the FIFA World Cup communications system, has received his “well-deserved” PhD degree in Physics from UKZN.

Mirza’s dissertation focused on quantum cryptography in an optical fibre network and investigated the practical implementation of emerging quantum technologies. In particular, he realised quantum communication networks for physically secure communication.

Mirza was supervised by Professor Francesco Petruccione who is the Director of UKZN’s Centre for Quantum Technology and holds the South African Research Chair in Quantum Information Processing and Communication.

Petruccione described Mirza’s PhD as “well-deserved”.

‘Mirza was the central figure behind the success of the FIFA World Cup communications.  His projects put UKZN on the global map of quantum communication,’ said Petruccione. 

Mirza’s quantum communication projects included the QuantumCity Project and the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup Quantum Stadium project.  These projects involved state-of-the-art quantum computing and quantum technology and ensured encrypted communication security around the World Cup and the Moses Mabhida Stadium.

Explaining the importance of quantum physics and quantum technology in today’s world, Petruccione said:  ‘The miniaturisation of technological devices necessitates the manipulation of objects at the nanoscale, at which coherent quantum mechanical processes start to dominate the physical properties.’

Pettrucione said the “unavoidable interaction” of these systems with their environment gives rise to ‘dissipative mechanisms and a strong loss of quantum coherence’ – in other words, decoherence. ‘Since perfect isolation of quantum systems is not possible, it is of central importance to incorporate the methods and tools of the theory of quantum systems in the exploration of quantum technologies,’ he said.

Under Petruccione, UKZN’s Centre for Quantum Technology has contributed to the development of the theory of open quantum systems, which is the basis of recent quantum information technological applications.

One spin-off of Mirza’s research has been the establishment of a company, with the support of Petruccione and UKZN, which focuses on the commercialisation of research at the Centre for Quantum Technology. Currently its commercial activities focus on quantum and classical encryption.

For Mirza, the PhD opens a new chapter. ‘My PhD is the culmination of 22 years of studying,’ he said. ‘I believe that every person involved in this journey played a role in this achievement. For me, this PhD marks a new beginning and a new set of challenges to overcome.’

Mirza said he hopes to continue his post-doctoral career at UKZN while also strengthening the University’s commitment to entrepreneurship.

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