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An entanglement-based wavelength-multiplexed quantum communication network

Abstract

Quantum key distribution1 has reached the level of maturity required for deployment in real-world scenarios2,3,4,5,6. It has previously been shown to operate alongside classical communication in the same telecommunication fibre7,8,9 and over long distances in fibre10,11 and in free-space links12,13,14,15. Despite these advances, the practical applicability of quantum key distribution is curtailed by the fact that most implementations and protocols are limited to two communicating parties. Quantum networks scale the advantages of quantum key distribution protocols to more than two distant users. Here we present a fully connected quantum network architecture in which a single entangled photon source distributes quantum states to many users while minimizing the resources required for each. Further, it does so without sacrificing security or functionality relative to two-party communication schemes. We demonstrate the feasibility of our approach using a single source of bipartite polarization entanglement, which is multiplexed into 12 wavelength channels. Six states are then distributed between four users in a fully connected graph using only one fibre and one polarization analysis module per user. Because no adaptations of the entanglement source are required to add users, the network can readily be scaled to a large number of users, without requiring trust in the provider of the source. Unlike previous attempts at multi-user networks, which have been based on active optical switches and therefore limited to some duty cycle, our implementation is fully passive and thus has the potential for unprecedented quantum communication speeds.

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Fig. 1: Network architecture and experimental set-up.
Fig. 2: Spectrum and wavelength multiplexing.
Fig. 3: Experimental results.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding authors on request.

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Acknowledgements

We thank J. Slim for help with the software and E. Acuña Ortega for assistance in the laboratory. We acknowledge financial support from the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) Projects—Agentur für Luft- und Raumfahrt (FFG-ALR contracts 854022 and 866025), the European Union (EU) under Horizon 2020 contract number FETOPEN-801060 quantum-enhanced on-chip interference microscopy (Q-MIC) and the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

Reviewer information

Nature thanks V. Martin and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

The set-up was built by S.W. and the experiment was conducted by S.W. and S.K.J. The network architecture was conceived by S.K.J. and S.W. The source was designed by F.S., S.W. and S.K.J. H.H. helped with the detection of the single photons. R.U. contributed to the experimental design, source and network and to supervising the project. The paper was written by S.W., S.K.J. and F.S. All authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Sören Wengerowsky or Rupert Ursin.

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

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Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Fig. 1 Calculated fidelities and quantum-bit error rate (QBER) for two to nine users versus the system efficiency and equivalent fibre length, assuming an attenuation of 0.2 dB km−1.

a, Using detectors with a 1 ns timing jitter. This is great for cheap networks with low losses (those over a small area such as a LAN). b, Using detectors with a 100 ps jitter allows us to sustain much higher losses and many more users. This is useful for long-distance inter-city links. Both graphs were calculated using a generated pair rate of 1.7 million pairs per second and a dark count rate of 500 per second per detector.

Extended Data Table 1 Measured fidelities
Extended Data Table 2 Count rates

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Cite this article

Wengerowsky, S., Joshi, S.K., Steinlechner, F. et al. An entanglement-based wavelength-multiplexed quantum communication network. Nature 564, 225–228 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0766-y

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Keywords

  • Quantum Communication Network
  • Polarization Analysis Module
  • Wavelength Channels
  • Active Optical Switching
  • Idler Photons

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