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German quantum project on secure comms gains €165M funding

29 May 2019

Fraunhofers HHI, IOF and partners working on 7-year QuNET mission for a “secure European data space and quantum optical internet.”

Anja Karliczek, German Federal Minister of Education and Research, last week announced in Berlin that QuNET, described as “a major initiative for a quantum network impervious to eavesdropping”, is to receive a total of €165 million in funding.

The primary objective of QuNET is secure communications between governmental organizations in Germany. The planned seven-year project will also serve as a central platform for the establishment of a German Quantum Communications infrastructure and will play a role in building a quantum internet.

At the broader European level, the German federal government and partners in the QuNET consortium are working to create a secure European data space. In the first phase alone the initiative will receive approximately €25 million over the coming two years.

To meet this challenge Fraunhofer and its institutes for Telecommunications, Heinrich Hertz Institute, and Applied Optics and Precision Engineering (IOF) are partnering with the German Aerospace Center and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light.

Photonics inputs

The Fraunhofer HHI is contributing two technologies. First, its Photonic Integrated Circuits (PICs) for the quantum network, which have already won several competitions for European research projects. Secondly, HHI will also contribute its experience in fibre optic networks and Quantum Key Distribution (QKD), which has also been successfully demonstrated over optical links.

Fraunhofer HHI researchers set a world record in 2016 for optical free-space data transmission. They set up a bidirectional 1.7 Tbit/s optical transmission segment through the air between two buildings of the Fraunhofer HHI. This kind of free-space segment is important for areas with underdeveloped infrastructure and also serves as a test segment for optical communication to satellites.

The HHI has conducted Quantum Key Distribution experiments with a key rate of up to 8 kbit/s using the time-frequency protocol on the same segment as part of the DFG Collaborative Research Centre Semiconductor Nanophotonics.

PICs developed in Berlin are already used worldwide in high-data rate transmission through fiber optics networks. In the context of the European Union Quantum Flagship projects UNIQORN and CIVIC, these PICs are being further developed at the HHI for use in Quantum Key Distribution.

'Affordable quantum technologies'

Researchers have developed innovative optical integration solutions that make quantum technologies “affordable for the average citizen,” says the HHI. The hybrid photonic integration platform PolyBoard, developed at the Fraunhofer HHI, enables the flexible and efficient combination of the widest possible variety of optical functionalities on a single chip and is thus the key to success in the mass market.

The driving factor behind the QuNET initiative is the rise in the performance capabilities of digital technologies, which have an impact on today's data networks and, which represent an increasing threat to the security of the modern information-based society. Governmental organizations, banks and security-critical companies in particular will have to rethink and rejuvenate their security infrastructures accordingly.

The project, organized in three phases, will officially be launched in the fall of 2019: First the researchers will develop the hardware components; in a second step they will formulate the technological foundations for multi-user operations in heterogeneous networks; in the third phase the quantum technology-based network for governmental agencies is to be implemented together with industry and German federal network providers.

Photon Engineering, LLCDiffraction Internationalart Photonics GmbHSensofar MetrologyNanoscribe GmbHDelta Optical Thin Film A/SBristol Instruments, Inc.
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