QuTech and Fraunhofer ILT launch ‘ICON’ quantum optical network project to put quantum into the fibre optic network

Created October 18, 2019
Applications and Research

Dutch research centre QuTech and Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT (“ILT”), based in Aachen, Germany, have together launched “ICON”, which is an R&D project with the aim of transporting quantum information long distances over glass fibres – paving the way for the quantum Internet.

ICON, which stands for International Cooperation and Networking, is an internal funding program launched by the Fraunhofer organisation to bring leading international researchers together and to enable cooperation on a project basis.

Specifically, Fraunhofer ILT and QuTech are collaborating within the ICON project called “Low-Noise Frequency Converters for the First Quantum Internet Demonstrator – QFC-4-1QID.” The first project phase will last three years and comprises joint research activities with a total volume of approx. €2.5 million.

The partners comment that quantum computers “will soon make it possible to perform highly complex calculations and algorithms in the shortest possible time and, thus, will revolutionize information technology.”

Technical challenges

In the QFC-4-1QID project, the partners are developing technologies with which the wavelength or frequency of individual photons can be specifically converted without impairing quantum information.

Designing the corresponding quantum frequency converters poses a great challenge – they must exhibit high overall efficiency and low noise in the output signal. It is a matter of converting photons emitting at a wavelength of 637nm from nitrogen-vacancy centres in diamond, which serve as qubits at QuTech in Delft, Netherlands.

Florian Elsen, project manager and coordinator for quantum technology at ILT, commented, “For long-distance connections with the lowest possible transmission losses, these photons must be modified so that their wavelengths are in the telecommunications bands between 1500 nm and 1600 nm.”

So far, only the basic principle of quantum frequency converters has been demonstrated. The frequency converters with specifications relevant to the application will be implemented in the QFC-4-1QID project in the first step using laboratory setups. This will be followed later by the development of prototypes and integrated components – for example in funded follow-up projects and R&D collaborations with industry partners.

The world’s first quantum internet demonstrator of the QuTech Collaboration (1QID) will connect four cities in the Netherlands in 2022, each with access to a common quantum system. In 2014, the TU Delft and the Dutch organization TNO founded the research centre Qutech, which serves both the scientific and engineering sectors.

For more information, visit https://qutech.nl



This article was written
by Matthew Peach

Matthew Peach is a freelance technology journalist specialising in photonics and communications. He has previously worked for several business-to-business publishers, editing a range of high-tech magazines and websites.