Entangled photons exhibit the unique property of non-locality – meaning the behavior of one photon is “dependent” upon the behavior of another photon, even when the photons are separated by vast differences. Originally created through fragile laboratory experiments, quantum entangled photon sources have matured recently into commercial sources that are rugged and much easier to use. With the growing availability of these commercial sources, new applications have begun to emerge. One such application, quantum key distribution, is the use of quantum entangled photons to create a never-ending supply of unbreakable cryptographic keys for secure satellite-to-satellite communications (see figure at right).To date, commercial entangled photon sources have been used primarily for terrestrial, indoor applications - where unwanted ambient light can be easily controlled. Space-based applications, however, require sources that must operate in the presence of abundant sunlight.One of the major constraints limiting the effectiveness of filtering techniques is the large spectral bandwidth of the entangled photon sources themselves (~1-2nm). This broad spectral output limits the ability of spectral filters to isolate the quantum signal, since the filter must have a comparable bandwidth to avoid reducing the intensity of the source. By developing a source with a narrowed spectral output, much greater isolation of the quantum signal is possible. Toward this goal, we propose to design a bright entangled photon source with a spectral bandwidth 100x narrower (<10pm) than today’s commercial sources. Evaluating the performance of four different design approaches, we will down-select the design that achieves the greatest improvement. Finally, we will show that this improvement, when combined with existing spatial and temporal filters, can achieve the isolation of quantum photons from natural solar photons required to conduct quantum key distribution between satellites.
Commercialization of a narrow-band entangled photon source supports the following program: The 2015 NASA Roadmap for Communications, Navigation, and Orbital Debris Tracking and Characterization (Tech Area 5) identifies Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) (TA 5.6.4) and Quantum Communications (TA 5.6.5) as Revolutionary Concepts (TA 5.6) that can have very high payoff if successful. Entangled photon sources are a critical technology for quantum communications and quantum networks; and entangled photons represent a promising approach to QKD.
The National Quantum Initiative (NQI) dedicated to maintaining US superiority in quantum information sciences.
The Defense Optical Communications Program (DOC-P) is a tri-service effort that includes quantum communication.
DOE Quantum Networks for Open Science Entangled photon sources are foundational technology for such a network, and narrowband emission will provide coupling to quantum repeaters.