(Engineering&Technology) Quantum communications, quantum clocks and gravity sensors are emerging as early adopters of quantum technologies. This article provides an excellent review of efforts underway at the four UK quantum technology research centres established in 2015 as part of the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme. The network consists of four nodes connecting three Cambridge University facilities and the Science Park to each other via standard optical fibres. Each facility is equipped with a quantum key generator and receiver provided by Toshiba.
Cambridge University researchers and their co-workers at Toshiba Research Europe at the Cambridge Science Park have been using quantum states of photons to exchange secret keys to encrypted messages via a conventional optical fibre. The set-up, the UK’s first city-scale quantum network, is intended to prove that quantum key distribution (QKD), a technique enabling what is believed to be an unhackable exchange of secret information, is ready to enter the commercial market.
As part of the UK’s programme, mainly funded through the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council, the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Innovate UK is supporting four projects focused on developing prototypes of marketable quantum devices. Together with engineering and environmental consultancy RSK, Teledyne e2v will soon start field trials of quantum gravity sensors that could detect underground structures with greater accuracy and to greater depth than is possible today. In another project, the firm is looking to develop accurate quantum clocks that could be used by infrastructure operators as a back-up when timing services provided by satellite systems are not available due to jamming or other disruption.
BT is a partner in another £10m initiative between the UK and Singapore, called the QKD Qubesat, which aims to fly an experimental satellite in 2021.