Quantum key distribution with entangled photons generated on demand by a quantum dot

Quantum key distribution—exchanging a random secret key relying on a quantum mechanical resource—is the core feature of secure quantum networks. Entanglement-based protocols offer additional layers of security and scale favorably with quantum repeaters, but the stringent requirements set on the photon source have made their use situational so far. Semiconductor-based quantum emitters are a promising solution in this scenario, ensuring on-demand generation of near-unity-fidelity entangled photons with record-low multiphoton emission, the latter feature countering some of the best eavesdropping attacks. Here, we use a coherently driven quantum dot to experimentally demonstrate a modified Ekert quantum key distribution protocol with two quantum channel approaches: both a 250-m-long single-mode fiber and in free space, connecting two buildings within the campus of Sapienza University in Rome. Our field study highlights that quantum-dot entangled photon sources are ready to go beyond laboratory experiments, thus opening the way to real-life quantum communication.

Quantum key distribution with entangled photons generated on-demand by a quantum dot,
F. Basso Basset, M. Valeri, E. Roccia, V. Muredda, D. Poderini, J. Neuwirth, N. Spagnolo, M. B. Rota, G. Carvacho, F. Sciarrino, R. Trotta, Science Advances  Vol. 7, no. 12, eabe6379 (2021) doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abe6379