This program will develop a new class of 'on-a-chip' quantum transceivers that can operate at T ~ 250K range with performance meeting NASA's needs for secure ultra-high-speed data free-space communications for future aerospace applications. Ground-to-satellite and satellite-to-satellite quantum encrypted communications, distributed sensing, and networking demand a disruptive ‘on-a-chip’ technology that permits ultra-efficient, high-speed entangled-photon generation and single-photon detection packaged to provide low size, weight, power, and cost. The program integrates technology developed by both the University of California, Santa Barbara, (UCSB) and Amethyst. The UCSB Team has demonstrated a <0.4 dB/cm loss AlGaAs-on-insulator photonics platform for entangled-photon pair generation. Signal rates >10 GHz/mW2 have been demonstrated—at least 100X faster than all other approaches and 10,000X faster than silicon integrated-photonic sources. Waveguide-integrated superconducting single-photon detectors have also been demonstrated with sub-40 ps timing jitter, sub-milli-Hertz dark count rates, unity quantum efficiency, and -40 dB crosstalk. The Amethyst team has demonstrated InGaAs/InP single-photon avalanche detectors (SPADs) capable of >100 MHz bandwidth at 250 K by using gating and proprietary bulk defect passivation techniques. By integrating these source and detector technologies, the program will develop a high-speed quantum transceiver with an entangled-photon source and on-chip photonic conditioning components (transmitter) and photonic interferometric circuits with waveguide-integrated single-photon detectors (receiver). This ‘on-a-chip’ quantum transceiver will be capable of uncompromised 'qubit' detection. The Phase I program will deliver an emitter and detector device at TRL 4. This will provide the necessary platform for Phase II: A full systems-level design, fabrication and testing of an ‘on-a-chip’ AlGaAsOI/SPAD quantum photonic transceiver.
The development of a quantum photonic transceiver is vital to meet NASA’s mission objectives for a scalable quantum network architecture, including distributed quantum sensing, improved timing, and secure communications. The program directly addresses the needs of the Deep Space Optical Communications program, which seeks to improve communications performance 10 to 100 times over the current state-of-the-art without increasing mass, volume, or power, which this proposal addresses.
There is a significant and pressing need for a low SWaP chip-scale quantum photonic transceiver that can provide robust and secure high-speed satellite-to-satellite and satellite-to-ground communications to meet the ever-growing security and bandwidth requirements of the commercial communications market.