Air Force

Entangled photon router

Secure quantum communication through free space

Photonics Software & Information Technology

AFRL’s Dr. David H. Hughes leads a lab-funded research team in the investigation of long-distance, mobile optical links imperative for secure in-theater quantum communications. (Brian Rhea/AOptix Technologies)

Entangled photons have enabled experimental verification of foundations that underlie quantum theory. More recently they have become a resource for applications beyond the laboratory – specifically for quantum key distribution (QKD).

QKD uses quantum mechanics to guarantee secure communication. It enables two parties to produce a shared random secret key, which can be used to encrypt and decrypt messages.

Free-space entangled photon experiments have taken place over more than a 100 kilometers and satellite relay is anticipated within a few years.

Air Force researchers have moved a step closer to quantum communication with the development of an optical system that can function to route or exchange entangled photon states and properties. Using a co-linear entangled source, the system selectively manifests frequency entangled or polarization entangled photons suited for secure QKD applications with shared keys and provable security.

It also enables a complete entangled state to be routed to either user by selecting the input frequencies to be both congruent, or incongruent. Unique features are selectable entanglement and routing, compact size, and integrated construction for telescopic compatibility.

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