An optical key system comprises a battery-operated optical key and an isolated lock that derives both its operating power and unlock signals from the correct optical key. A light emitting diode or laser diode is included within the optical key and is connected to transmit a bit-serial password. The key user physically enters either the code-to-transmit directly, or an index to a pseudorandom number code, in the key. Such person identification numbers can be retained permanently, or ephemeral. When a send button is pressed, the key transmits a beam of light modulated with the password information. The modulated beam of light is received by a corresponding optical lock with a photovoltaic cell that produces enough power from the beam of light to operate a password-screen digital logic. In one application, an acceptable password allows a two watt power laser diode to pump ignition and timing information over a fiberoptic cable into a sealed engine compartment. The receipt of a good password allows the fuel pump, spark, and starter systems to each operate. Therefore, bypassing the lock mechanism as is now routine with automobile thieves is pointless because the engine is so thoroughly disabled.
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.