Article image

Secure quantum communication is one step closer to reality

At the University of Waterloo’s Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC), researchers have made a tremendous advancement in the realm of quantum communication by melding two Nobel Prize-winning innovations.

This new development hinges on the efficient production of nearly perfect entangled photon pairs, leveraging quantum dot sources. Entangled photons, a concept awarded the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics, are light particles that remain interconnected over vast distances.

The integration of this principle with quantum dots, celebrated with the 2023 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, aims to refine the generation of these entangled photons, a cornerstone for applications like secure communications.

Perfect entanglement meets efficiency

Dr. Michael Reimer, a professor at IQC and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Waterloo, highlighted the significance of their work.

“The combination of a high degree of entanglement and high efficiency is needed for exciting applications such as quantum key distribution or quantum repeaters, which are envisioned to extend the distance of secure quantum communication to a global scale or link remote quantum computers,” Reimer explained.

He emphasized the novelty of their achievement in simultaneously meeting the dual criteria of near-perfect entanglement and high efficiency using a quantum dot, a feat not accomplished in prior experiments.

Quantum dot communication revolution

The team’s success involved embedding semiconductor quantum dots within a nanowire, creating a photon source that surpasses previous methods in efficiency by 65 times.

Developed in collaboration with the National Research Council of Canada in Ottawa, this innovative source can be stimulated with lasers to generate entangled photon pairs on demand.

To enhance the entanglement’s quality, the researchers utilized high-resolution single photon detectors from Single Quantum in The Netherlands.

Overcoming entanglement precision obstacles

Matteo Pennacchietti, a PhD student at IQC and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, discussed overcoming the challenge of fine structure splitting.

This phenomenon, which leads to oscillation in an entangled state over time, previously hindered accurate entanglement measurement with slow detection systems.

“We overcame this by combining our quantum dots with a very fast and precise detection system. We can basically take a timestamp of what the entangled state looks like at each point during the oscillations, and that’s where we have the perfect entanglement,” Pennacchietti explained.

Simulating secure quantum communication

The team’s collaboration extended to Dr. Norbert Lütkenhaus and Dr. Thomas Jennewein, both IQC faculty members and professors in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Waterloo.

Together, they demonstrated the potential of their quantum dot entanglement source in simulating quantum key distribution, a secure communications method.

This experiment underscored the significant promise the quantum dot source holds for the future of secure quantum communications.

Implications and next steps

In summary, University of Waterloo scientists have set a new standard in quantum communication by successfully merging two Nobel Prize-winning technologies to produce nearly perfect entangled photon pairs with unprecedented efficiency.

This breakthrough overcomes long-standing challenges in the field while opening new avenues for secure global communication and the interconnection of remote quantum computers.

By pushing the boundaries of quantum dot technology and entanglement, the researchers have laid a robust foundation for the next generation of quantum communication systems, marking a significant leap forward in our quest for ultra-secure, worldwide connectivity.

The full study was published in the journal Communications Physics.


Like what you read? Subscribe to our newsletter for engaging articles, exclusive content, and the latest updates.

Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and


News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day