The first hack-proof quantum cryptography test in Italy

Friday 06 Dec 19

A quantum communication system was successfully tested in the city of Florence, Italy. This is a fundamental step towards the realization of the Italian quantum backbone, an infrastructure able to guarantee the privacy and secrecy of the users.

An important step towards future communication systems has recently been demonstrated in the city of Florence, Italy. In fact, a team of researchers from the National Institute of Optics (CNR-INO) and from the European Lab in nonlinear spectroscopy (Lens), in collaboration with INRIM of Turin and Technical University of Denmark (DTU Fotonik), has for the first time successfully tested a quantum cryptography (QKD) system in the Italian infrastructure. The study, recently published in the journal EPJ Quantum Technology, represents therefore the first step for the realization of the Italian Quantum Backbone (Iqb), which is a communication network, to be deployed through the entire peninsula, able to support users' privacy and data security thanks to the quantum communication protocols.

The test was conducted using a section of 40 km of the Italian optical backbone as a transmission channel, which extends for about 1,800 km, from Turin to Matera. "Our work, which demonstrates the feasibility of transmitting a quantum key for a distance of about 40 km on a metropolitan optical fibre, is in line with similar worldwide experiments ", explain Alessandro Zavatta researcher from CNR-INO and Davide Bacco from the Technical University of Denmark. "Our results represent the first step for the future realization of the Italian Quantum Backbone, a network through which it will be possible to exchange sensitive data and information hack-proof and resistant even to the attacks of a quantum computer".

Scheme of the Italian fibre optic backbone which will be used both for metrology and quantum communication protocols.

Today we have demonstrated how quantum cryptography, one of the most advanced quantum technologies, is expected to enter into our everyday life in the near future.

It is worthwhile mentioning that although optical fibres allow the current internet to travel at great speeds between continents and countries, the security of our data is not guaranteed in the long term. However, quantum communication allows information-theoretic secure communication. In fact, by exploiting this technology, the researchers explain, pin and password could be safely distributed, encoding the information on quantum states of light and allowing a potential intrusion to be revealed thanks to the fundamental laws of quantum physics, such as the uncertainty principle of Heisenberg.

In Italy, one of the founding countries of EuroQci, the European network for Quantum Communications that combines the use of commercial optical fibres with that of dedicated satellites, is increasingly working on the possibility of integrating this technology with fibre networks and infrastructures optics already installed, which are used for telecommunications. "Italy can aspire to have a fundamental role in the future development of quantum technologies on fibre optics", explains Davide Calonico, from the Italian Institute of Metrology and coordinator of the national fibre optic infrastructure. "Our optical fibre infrastructure demonstrates its full potential even for quantum communications, having achieved important milestones in primary metrology and quantum sensing." After the city of Florence, the technology of quantum cryptography will be tested in other cities such as Matera, where a QKD node will be developed in one of the newly established laboratories.

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21 APRIL 2021