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Proceedings Paper

A robust, high-brightness entangled photon source for satellite-to-ground quantum key distribution (Conference Presentation)
Author(s): Alexander Lohrmann; Aitor Villar; Alexander Ling

Paper Abstract

We plan to operate our current low brightness entangled photon source onboard a 3u CubeSat with dimensions of 30x10x10 cm3 and a total weight (including the payload, solar panels, on-board computer and attitude control systems) of less than 4 kg. The satellite will be launched from the International Space Station into a low-earth orbit where it will demonstrate the violation of Bell’s inequality. The payload itself consists of a critically phase-matched entangled photon source, polarization analysis elements and passively quenched single photon detectors. We use critical phase matching (in contrast to quasi phase matching) due to the orbital thermal fluctuations. Although quasi phase matching can in principle yield higher pair rates, guaranteeing the required thermal stability is not practical with the limited power budget and thermal isolation of small scale satellites. In critical phase matching on the other hand, the angle of the nonlinear crystals must be controlled with high precision. This can be achieved with relative ease by ensuring high thermomechanical stability or employing piezoelectric actuators. The source consists of two beta barium borate (BBO) crystals with parallel optical axes set for type-I phase matching. Within the crystals, the 405 nm pump beam spontaneously converts to two lower energy daughter photons at the non-degenerate wavelengths of 785 nm and 837 nm for signal and idler photons, respectively. The wavelengths are chosen to yield optimized detection efficiency when taking the atmospheric absorption losses and detector efficiencies into account. The polarization of the photon pairs lies in the horizontal plane (with respect to the optical unit) upon generation. In between the two crystals, a special half-wave plate rotates the polarization of pairs generated in the first crystal by 90 degrees. The phase difference between the pairs born in different crystals is compensated using an yttrium orthovanadate compensation crystal. After temporal compensation, the output state is one of the maximally entangled co-polarized Bell states. Finally, the photons are split based on their wavelength and their polarization state is analyzed by two liquid crystal polarization rotators. While experiments in the laboratory show that detected pair rates of more than 100 000 pairs per second per milliwatt of input power are achievable in this configuration, the current version of the payload will produce only a fraction of this. The main goal of the present mission is not to demonstrate a QKD-qualified entangled photon source, but to show that the crucial component, namely the phase stability of the entangled state can be maintained from alignment to in-orbit operation. The source is enclosed in a titanium housing and the crystals are placed on specifically designed flexure stages to ensure high thermomechanical stability. Pre-flight tests of the payload model show a violation of the Clauser-Horne-Shimony-Holt inequality of S = 2.67 (0.02) after vibrational and thermal testing with a detected rate of approximately 500 photon pairs per second for each polarization basis. The final step, operation of a QKD-qualified high brightness source, is straightforward and only requires loose focusing of the pump and the signal and idler waists. Here, we present detailed results ranging from the laboratory stage of the entangled photon source to the fully operational payload.

Paper Details

Date Published: 11 October 2018
Proc. SPIE 10803, Quantum Information Science and Technology IV, 108030C (11 October 2018); doi: 10.1117/12.2326776
Show Author Affiliations
Alexander Lohrmann, Ctr. for Quantum Technologies (Singapore)
Aitor Villar, Ctr. for Quantum Technologies (Singapore)
Alexander Ling, Ctr. for Quantum Technologies (Singapore)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 10803:
Quantum Information Science and Technology IV
Mark T. Gruneisen; Miloslav Dusek; John G. Rarity, Editor(s)

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