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Israel gets spooky with national quantum lab

Plan is to spin up single photons as a comms medium

By Richard Chirgwin

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Israel has entered the quantum communications arms race, announcing it's going to build a national demonstrator for “spooky” communications.

Don't get too excited: the network isn't going to protect ordinary punters' communications yet. The NIS 7.5 million (US$2.13 million) project is an academic demonstrator to be built at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The idea is to ramp up local quantum communications capabilities, because as the university's announcement says, the commercial quantum comms kit on the market at the moment is too much a “black box”. They haven't been peer reviewed by Israeli experts, so the country wants local designs that can be reviewed (and put in front of hackers to see what they think).

The university says the system at its Quantum Information Science Centre laboratories will use single photons as the communications medium.

It's starting to look like international competition to build quantum communications is developing fast (and to a lesser extent, quantum computing). China showed off the results of its first Earth-to-satellite entanglement experiment last week, using the Micius satellite launched in 2016.

Here on Earth, the best-developed quantum communications application is quantum key distribution (QKD): companies like QuintessenceLabs and ID Quantique exploit the quantum properties of photons to protect the encryption keys their appliances generate and distribute. Those keys are then used to encrypt data transmitted over conventional channels.

Network throughput is what confines quantum technology to applications like key distribution for now – quantum communication channels aren't yet running at anything like the multiple-gigabit-per-second rates that are humdrum in electrical and optical communications networks. ®

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