The Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) is pioneering new applications for quantum technologies, in particular quantum communications networks in space.
Encryption in the 21st Century
The secure distribution of cryptographic keys has always been a crucial element for the task of protecting and sharing important secrets. Today’s algorithmic key distribution makes assumptions on the computing power of a possible hacker, which leads to fundamental problems for long-term security.
Quantum key distribution (QKD) establishes highly secure keys between distant parties by using single photons to transmit each bit of the key. Since single photons behave according the laws of quantum mechanics they cannot be tapped, copied or directly measured without detection. The
huge benefit for users of such systems is the peace of mind of knowing that any attack, manipulation or copying of the photons can be immediately detected and overcome. QKD solves the long-standing problem of securely transporting cryptographic keys between distant locations. Even if they were to be transmitted across hostile territory, their integrity could be unambiguously verified upon receipt. Ground-based QKD systems are commercially available today, however, current systems can only cover distances of up to 200 km due to photon absorption in fibre optic cables. Satellite-based QKD systems offer the best approach for surpassing this distance limitation with today’s technology.
Mission Concepts for Space Quantum Science
Over the past three years, IQC has been working with industry partners
to advance a proposed microsatellite mission called QEYSSat through a series of technical studies funded initially by Defense Research and Development Canada (DRDC) and subsequently by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). QEYSSat’s mission objectives would be to demonstrate the generation of encryption keys through the creation of quantum links between ground and space, and also to conduct fundamental science investigations of long-distance quantum entanglement. Most recently, IQC received a contract from the CSA to design and build a compact prototype quantum key distribution receiver (QKDR) suitable for a low-cost microsatellite mission like QEYSSat.
In parallel, IQC has a collaborative project with the Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) at the University of Toronto to study the feasibility of performing a rapid and low cost space-based QKD demonstration mission using a nanosatellite platform. This collaborative study is being funded by Federal Economic Development Agency for Ontario (FedDev Ontario) to develop the technologies that would be required for a future space-based QKD data service.
Space Quantum Communication Projects
The space quantum science mission concepts build upon over three years of relevant projects by IQC that have been generously supported by the CSA, DRDC, FedDev Ontario and other federal and provincial organizations including Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation (MRI), Canada Foundation for Innovation/Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation (CFI/MEDI), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Canadian Institute For Advanced Research (CIFAR) and NSERC Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) Program.
|Project title/description||Years||IQC role||Funding|
|Quantum Key Distribution Receiver (QKDR) for QEYSSat||2013-Present||Lead||CSA|
|Advancement of Satellite-Based Quantum Communications||2013-Present||Lead||FedDev Ontario|
|Acquisition, Pointing and Tracking (APT) for QEYSSat Study and Breadboarding||2012-13||Support||CSA|
|Canadian Quantum Communication Satellite: Concepts and Components||2011-12||Lead||CSA|
|Feasibility Study on Quantum Entanglements Experiments in Space||2010-11||Support||CSA|
|Cryptographic Key Transfer Using a Quantum Optical Payload Study||2010||Support||Ontario MRI Early Researcher Award|
|Satellite-Based Quantum Communication||2011-Present||Lead||DRDC|
|Facility for Operating and Testing Quantum Devices||2010-Present||Lead||CFI/MEDI, Canada
|Quantum Photonics Devices for Quantum Communications||2010-Present||Lead||NSERC Discovery|
|Quantum Information Program||2010-Present||Lead||CIFAR|
|Building a Workforce for the Cryptographic Infrastructure of the 21st Century||2012-Present||Lead||NSERC CREATE|
|Facility for Global and Secure Quantum Communication||2013-Present||Lead||CFI/MEDI, Canada
|Entangled Sources for Ground-Based QKD||2013-Present||Lead||NSERC Research Tools and Instruments|
Industrial, Academic and Government Partners