Canada’s support will help Waterloo launch quantum research into space

Friday, April 28, 2017

Thomas Jennewein.Canada is headed for the quantum space race with a project from the University of Waterloo.

Waterloo’s Quantum Encryption and Science Satellite (QEYSSat) initiative, announced as part of the federal government’s recent investment into space-related emerging technologies, joins a global race to quantum cybersecurity via satellites.

“Today’s announcement in support of the QEYSSat project reinforces Canada’s commitment to science and research,” added Bob Lemieux, Dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Waterloo. “Space-based research has lead to incredible technologies here on the ground. I look forward to the next generation of quantum technologies that will transform our lives.”

The QEYSSat project is led by Waterloo’s Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) and will advance quantum cryptography research by demonstrating ultra-secure quantum communication via global satellites. The project aims to solve the long-standing problem of securely transporting cryptographic quantum keys between distant locations.

“Quantum cryptography keys cannot be copied or directly measured without detection,” said Principal Investigator Thomas Jennewein, professor in Waterloo’s department of Physics and Astronomy and IQC member who has led the QEYSSat project since 2009.  “We will demonstrate ultra-secure key distribution on a global scale and help Canada and the world move towards a new generation of secure communication.”

The QEYSSat mission will demonstrate the generation of encryption keys and conduct fundamental investigations of long-distance quantum entanglement. The results will have impact on future cryptographic schemes and quantum technologies for a variety of fields such as banking, transportation, and information technology.

“IQC’s QEYSSat project launches Canada into the global quantum space race,” said Raymond Laflamme, executive director of IQC and also a professor in Physics and Astronomy. “I’m pleased that the Government of Canada recognizes IQC’s global leadership in quantum research and I look forward to advancing quantum cybersecurity for future generations.”

To date, Jennwein and his team have worked with a number of Canadian partners, including INO, Xiphos Technologies, Neptec, Excelitas, COMDEV, University of Toronto Space Flight Laboratory, Institute for Quantum Science and Technology at the University of Calgary, the Perimeter Institute, and TRIUMF, with funding support from CSA, Defense Research and Development Canada (DRDC), Industry Canada, Ontario Research Fund (ORF), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), and Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR).

Most recently, Jennewein and his team successfully tested the secure transmission of a quantum key from a ground source to a receiver on an aircraft provided by the National Research Council of Canada.