Quantum technology in fibre-optic networks will protect against hacks

Credit: University of Copenhagen

A new research project and nearly DKK 18 million (€2.4 million) from Innovation Fund Denmark will transform 15 years of quantum research at the University of Copenhagen into commercial products for unhackable encryption and the building blocks of tomorrow's quantum computers. The first objective is to transport light particles with quantum information via a 10-kilometre fibre-optic network between UCPH's Niels Bohr Institute and DTU.

Cyber-attacks pose one of the greatest threats to Denmark. But imagine a world in which all digital information was defended by impenetrable encryption. A new Innovation Fund grant paves the way for breakthrough products to protect data and information from hackers.

For the next four years, researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute will lead a project to demonstrate that 15 years of quantum research in the laboratory can be successfully applied in the real world by linking quantum technology to the fibre-optic communication networks already used to access the internet.

"The first major goal is to build an impenetrable line of communication between the Niels Bohr building in Copenhagen and DTU in Lyngby, using the existing fibre-optic network as a highway for our light particles of encrypted quantum information," explains Assistant professor Leonardo Midolo.

'Plug and play' for fibre-optic networks
In the long term, quantum communication will be used throughout society. Together with several companies involved in the project, researchers will build quantum components for real-world applications.

But first of all, the technology must be robust and in a form that can be sold and 'packaged' in modules that are readily fitted to Denmark's vast fibre-optic network.

"The advantage of our photon (light particle) technology is that it is completely impenetrable. It's an indestructible link. There are numerous long-term benefits for society. Among them, how doctors and patients communicate information securely, and on a wider scale, when critical information in the banking sector or military must be secured," explains Professor Peter Lodahl.

The Danish quantum dream team
Along with the United States, China and a few others, Denmark is a global frontrunner when it comes to capitalizing on the opportunities afforded by quantum physics. But if Denmark is to remain competitive in the quantum race, institutions and companies must collaborate.

"We have enormous aspirations in quantum technology and great opportunities to realise them right here on Danish soil. Doing so requires that we unite and exploit our capabilities. In this project, we have assembled an exceptional team of researchers and people from industry with complementary competencies," concludes Professor Lodahl.

Those involved in the project are: Sparrow Quantum, SiPhotonIC, nanoPHAB, Swabian Instruments, the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), Aarhus University and the University of Copenhagen's Niels Bohr Institute.

Facts:

  • The project is called FIRE-Q (Field-ready single-photon quantum technology). The total budget for FIRE-Q is DKK 27 million (€3.6 million), of which DKK 17.8 million (€2.38 million) have been funded by Innovation Fund Denmark.

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