Inside Quantum Technology

Quantum Frequency Converters: A Suitable Case for Investment

QuTech, the quantum institute of the Delft University of Technology, and the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT) have recently launched a long-term strategic partnership to develop quantum frequency converters. The first Quantum Internet demonstration that requires quantum frequency converters planned by QuTech is slated for 2022.

Inside Quantum Technology believes that quantum frequency converters represent a little-talked about opportunity and we expect to see spinout firms begin to appear in near future with investments from (most probably) moderate-sized VCs. Here is why.

Quantum frequency converters are a key enabling technology for quantum networking: Increasingly quantum networks will take place over fiber optics. See our report: Influential Quantum Networks: Profiles and Strategies

Quantum frequency converters convert optical wavelengths to infrared wavelengths that can travel over fiber optical cable, then back to optical wavelengths to communicate with other devices while maintaining quantum entanglement. Millions of such quantum frequency converters will be necessary to build a global quantum internet.

Although the quantum frequency converters will be widely used, they are not likely to commoditize quickly: There are lots of potential routes to building a better quantum frequency converter.

Competitive factors for these devices include overall efficiency and low noise in the output signal. The technique being pursued at QuTech is conversion from 637 nm wavelength photons of nitrogen vacancy centers in diamond to the telecom bands between 1500 and 1600 nm.

Components represent an early revenue opportunity compared with systems. This is because pioneer firms in the quantum networking business need – and will pay for functional quantum frequency converters now, while revenues in the systems/equipment business will take some time to arrive.

As a result of all of the above, companies that dominate Quantum Internet components such as quantum frequency converters may never make headlines in the Wall Street Journal and Forbes. They are not sexy, but they may very well reap significant financial rewards in the short to medium term.

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