Direct and full-scale experimental verifications towards ground–satellite quantum key distribution

Date: 2013-04-21
Authors J.-Y. Wang, B. Yang, S.-K. Liao, L. Zhang, Q. Shen, X.-F. Hu, J.-C. Wu, S.-J. Yang, H. Jiang, Y.-L. Tang, B. Zhong, H. Liang, W.-Y. Liu, Y.H. Hu, Y.-M. Huang, B. Qi, J.-G. Ren, G.-S. Pan, J. Yin, J.-J. Jia, Y.-A. Chen, K. Chen, C.-Z. Peng & J.-W. Pan
Journal No. Nature Photonics 7, 387 (2013)
Abstract Quantum key distribution (QKD) provides the only intrinsically unconditional secure method for communication based on the principle of quantum mechanics. Compared with fibre-based demonstrations, free-space links could provide the most appealing solution for communication over much larger distances. Despite significant efforts, all realizations to date rely on stationary sites. Experimental verifications are therefore extremely crucial for applications to a typical low Earth orbit satellite. To achieve direct and full-scale verifications of our set-up, we have carried out three independent experiments with a decoy-state QKD system, and overcome all conditions. The system is operated on a moving platform (using a turntable), on a floating platform (using a hot-air balloon), and with a high-loss channel to demonstrate performances under conditions of rapid motion, attitude change, vibration, random movement of satellites, and a high-loss regime. The experiments address wide ranges of all leading parameters relevant to low Earth orbit satellites. Our results pave the way towards ground–satellite QKD and a global quantum communication network.