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Nat Commun. 2016 Sep 20;7:12890. doi: 10.1038/ncomms12890.

A physical zero-knowledge object-comparison system for nuclear warhead verification.

Author information

1
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Princeton University, E-Quad, Olden Street, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USA.
2
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, Princeton University, PO Box 451, MS 41, Princeton, New Jersey 08540, USA.
3
School of Engineering, University of Pisa, Largo Lazzarino 1, 56126 Pisa, Italy.
4
School of Medicine, Yale University, 300 Cedar Street, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.

Abstract

Zero-knowledge proofs are mathematical cryptographic methods to demonstrate the validity of a claim while providing no further information beyond the claim itself. The possibility of using such proofs to process classified and other sensitive physical data has attracted attention, especially in the field of nuclear arms control. Here we demonstrate a non-electronic fast neutron differential radiography technique using superheated emulsion detectors that can confirm that two objects are identical without revealing their geometry or composition. Such a technique could form the basis of a verification system that could confirm the authenticity of nuclear weapons without sharing any secret design information. More broadly, by demonstrating a physical zero-knowledge proof that can compare physical properties of objects, this experiment opens the door to developing other such secure proof-systems for other applications.

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