Cambridge launches UK’s first quantum network
The UK’s first quantum network was launched yesterday (Weds) in Cambridge, enabling ‘unhackable’ communications, made secure by the laws of physics, between three sites around the city.
The development of the UK Quantum Network has already led to a much greater understanding of the potential of this technology in secure applications in a range of fields.
- Ian White
The ‘metro’ network provides secure quantum communications between the Electrical Engineering Division at West Cambridge, the Department of Engineering in the city centre and Toshiba Research Europe Ltd (TREL) on the Cambridge Science Park.
Quantum links are so secure because they rely on particles of light, or photons, to transmit encryption keys through the optical fibre. Should an attacker attempt to intercept the communication, the key itself changes through the laws of quantum mechanics, rendering the stolen data useless.
Researchers have been testing the ultra-secure network for the last year, providing stable generation of quantum keys at rates between two and three megabits per second. These keys are used to securely encrypt data, both in transit and in storage. Performance has exceeded expectations, with the highest recorded sustained generation of keys in field trials that include encryption of data in multiple 100-gigabit channels.
The Cambridge network is a project of the Quantum Communications Hub, a consortium of eight UK universities, as well as private sector companies and public sector stakeholders. The network was built by Hub partners including the University’s Electrical Engineering Division and TREL, who also supplied the Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) systems. Further input came from ADVA, who supplied the optical transmission equipment, and the University’s Granta Backbone Network, which provided the optical fibre.
The UK Quantum Network is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) through the UK’s National Quantum Technologies Programme. It brings together concentrations of research excellence and innovation, facilitating greater collaboration between the two in development of applications that exploit the unique formal guarantee of security provided by quantum physics.
Image: Fiber Optic
Credit: Christopher Burns
Reproduced courtesy of the University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is acknowledged as one of the world's leading higher education and research institutions. The University was instrumental in the formation of the Cambridge Network and its Vice- Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, is also the President of the Cambridge Network.