Building the Quantum Space Internet

Strathclyde physics research has been recognised in a BBC article, How do you build the next-generation internet?. With the advent of large scale quantum computers seemingly around the corner, with significant investment by tech giants Google, IBM, Microsoft, and Intel, along with a host of other hopeful companies, there will be the need to connect them with quantum networks. Long distance quantum communication more than a few hundred kilometres is currently unfeasible using existing fibre optic networks. A long-running collaboration between Strathclyde and the National University of Singapore (NUS) aims to bridge the range gap using satellites to beam pairs of entangled photons between continents. The first in-orbit demonstration of this technology was highlighted in the article:

"One of the key applications of the quantum internet will be quantum key distribution (QKD), whereby a secret key is generated using a pair of entangled photons, and is then used to encrypt information in a way that is impossible for a quantum computer to crack."

"This technology already exists, and was first demonstrated in space (https://journals.aps.org/prapplied/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevApplied.5.054022) by a team of researchers from the National University of Singapore and the University of Strathclyde, UK, in December 2015."

The Strathclyde team (led by Dr Daniel Oi) and collaborators at Bristol University (led by Prof John Rarity) and the Centre for Quantum Technologies NUS (led by Dr Alex Ling) are working on a UK Space Agency funded project called QUARC to develop a QKD system for CubeSats, shoebox-sized spacecraft, that could provide global unhackable communication security. The combination of miniaturised optical systems with CubeSats offers a rapid and cost-effective way to boot-strap UK expertise in space quantum technologies. Strathclyde is well positioned as it hosts the Scottish Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications (SoXSA) and is the only university that is a member of all 4 UK Quantum Technology Hubs, in particular the Quantum Communications Hub based in York.

October 2017

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