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Optimizing quantum technology for secure communication

June 17, 2021 | Audrey-Maude Vézina

Update : June 17, 2021

INRS team receives a combined investment of $1 Million for two projects in quantum communication and quantum cryptography.

Artistic representation of a lock, symbolizing cybersecurity.
Quantum technologies could improve secure communication, especially in relation to sending personal, banking, and governmental data online.

Cybersecurity is a major issue in today’s connected society. Quantum technologies could provide a revolutionary solution to the problem of secure communication, especially in relation to sending personal, banking, and governmental data online. Roberto Morandotti, a professor at the National Institute of Scientific Research (INRS), researches this issue. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) has awarded Professor Morandotti more than $800,000 to fund two research projects in quantum communication and in quantum cryptography. The first project also benefits from a $215,157 contribution from Prompt and the Ministère de l’Économie et de l’Innovation du Québec(MEI).

Quantum Communication

Professor Morandotti is interested in quantum communications networks made up of local nodes. These connection points generate photons that are used to transport information.  The quantum properties of these light particles allow them to travel long distances along an optical fiber between local nodes.

Two central obstacles slow the development of this promising technology: the loss of photons and the lack of robust interconnects between local nodes. Professor Morandotti will collaborate with OptoElectronic Components Inc (OEC), an industry partner, to overcome these obstacles.

Together, they will develop robust, low-loss interconnects between integrated waveguide-based photonic chips and standard optical fibers. Professor Morandotti made it clear that

“This is a crucial step toward the commercialization of fiber-based quantum secure communication that will help Canada maintain its position as a leading player in the field.”

Roberto Morandotti, scientific head of the Ultrahigh Speed Light Manipulation Laboratory

Teams of university and industry researchers from Britain will also collaborate by simultaneously developing photonic chips.

Quantum Cryptography

Quantum cryptography is another promising approach in the field of secure communication. Quantum cryptography relies on photons’ quantum characteristics. Indeed, quantum key distribution prevents information photons from being intercepted or copied, which allows communication to be secure.

Using on-chip photonic structures integrated with fiber optic networks offers several advantages. However, these devices often require a compromise between cost and performance. With his quantum cryptography project, Professor Morandotti seeks to improve these photonic platforms with OEC’s support.

University and industry teams from the UK are also collaborating on this project. These partners will create the source architecture for the development of miniature atomic clocks.

“These projects will benefit Canada by training highly qualified personnel in the interdisciplinary field of integrated photonics and device design,” Professor Morandotti concluded.

About the Projects

The first project, titled, “Connectorizing Integrated Quantum Photonics Devices,” received a $400,000 grant through NSERC’s call for joint Canada-UK projects on quantum technology, as well as the contribution from Prompt and the MEI.

The second project, titled “Development of Highly Efficient, Portable, and Fiber-Integrated Photonic Platforms Based on Micro-Resonator,” also received $400,000 from the same program.