mobile | classic
Dataweek Electronics & Communications Technology Magazine

Follow us on:
Follow us on Facebook Share via Twitter Share via LinkedIn


Electronics Buyers' Guide

Electronics Manufacturing & Production Handbook 2019


One small step towards space-based quantum communications
11 June 2008, News

Quantum-encrypted communications have for a while been touted as the only form of communication that can ensure perfect security, ruling out the possibility of interception or eavesdropping completely.

However, free-space quantum communication experiments were, until recently, unable to be implemented for distances further than several tens of kilometres.

Large scale distribution of encrypted keys to enable secure communications on a global level, were deemed impossible due to the difficulties involved in long-distance propagation of the optical beam, which is affected by atmospheric and geographic hurdles. Wavefront distortion due to atmospheric turbulence and the absorption of radiation in the lower layers of the atmosphere include some of the critical issues that hamper extension of quantum communications to longer distances.

Now, Italian and Austrian researchers have come up with a novel idea to overcome the above challenges by attempting to establish a quantum communication link with orbiting satellites and ground-based stations. In the course of their experiment, they were able to perfectly identify individual photons fired from the ground station and reflected off a satellite in space, equipped with retroreflectors. Thus they were able to establish the viability of constructing a secure quantum communication channel between Earth and space.

This is the first necessary step in enabling space-ground and space-space communications based on coding the information bits in the quantum state of a photon - known as a qubit.

Making the crucial crossing from theoretical predictions to practical demonstration, the experiment required expertise ranging from classical optics to quantum optics and from advanced electronics to satellite laser ranging (SLR).

For the experiment, the researchers used a rapid sequence of weak laser pulses emitted by the ground-based station in the Matera Laser Ranging Observatory (MLRO) of the Italian Space Agency ASI, located in Matera, Italy. The pulses were directed toward a Japanese low-Earth orbiting (LEO) geodetic satellite, Ajisai, whose orbit has a perigee height of 1485 km and the retroreflected radiation was detected by a telescope back at MLRO. The main challenge was to detect the small number of reflected photons amongst a huge background noise, which mimics a real-life situation with an actual quantum communication system.

While this experiment clearly establishes the feasibility of a secure quantum communication channel through space, the next step would be to place an active source of single photons and entangled photons in space.

"Having a quantum communication source on a satellite will allow us to perform quantum physics experiments over much larger distances than possible on ground, and also allow us to perform quantum key distribution on a global scale," says Paolo Villoresi, one of the lead researchers involved in the experiment.

Besides the novel methods for information exchange - such as quantum teleportation - that become more viable, several new applications can also be expected to crop up in the future, such as atmospheric monitoring, based on the modification of the optical signal during downlink. Quantum communication through satellites can be expected to attract the attention of military establishments first, before civilian applications become widely available.

Villoresi is currently coordinating a study sponsored by the Italian Space Agency for having a dedicated satellite for quantum communications. These experiments, despite being oriented toward real-life operations, are still exploratory and commercially viable solutions are expected no sooner than 8-10 years from now.

For more information contact Patrick Cairns, Frost & Sullivan, +27 (0)21 680 3274,

  Share on Facebook Share via Twitter Share via LinkedIn    

Further reading:

  • Wits University to feature at AI Expo Africa
    31 July 2019, News
    Wits University will be sending a high-level delegation to this year’s AI Expo Africa, where it will launch a major research initiative that is intended to bring about a step change in scientific research ...
  • Celebrating 15 years of Laser Stencil Technology
    31 July 2019, Laser Stencil Technology, News
    Since its inception in 2004, Laser Stencil Technology has grown into a prominent figure in the South African electronics manufacturing industry. Having been involved in circuit board manufacturing using ...
  • From the editor’s desk: Embedded computing drives change
    31 July 2019, Technews Publishing, News
    Mike Goodyer says it best in the title of his article on page 16: “The only constant is change.” While he meant that in relation to developments at Microtronix Manufacturing and within the local electronics ...
  • Electronics news digest
    31 July 2019, News
    South Africa The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has appointed Sipho Mbhokota as the new executive manager for CSIR Defence and Security. His career in the defence and security ...
  • Rugged Interconnect and Pentek further cement partnership
    31 July 2019, Rugged Interconnect Technologies, News
    In May this year, Rugged Interconnect Technologies hosted the co-founder and vice president of Pentek, Rodger Hosking, for a week-long visit to reinforce the two companies’ partnership in the South African market.
  • SA security manufacturers going strong
    31 July 2019, News
    Dataweek spoke to two of the leaders in the local market about what they do, what they’ve been up to, and what their plans are for the future.
  • Clearing the Static: ESD testing and monitoring – Part 3
    31 July 2019, Altico Static Control Solutions, News
    Continuous monitoring and testing are key to effective static charge control. To ensure there are no loopholes in your ESD control programme, all ESD equipment, as well as personnel operating it, need ...
  • Demand for local products highlighted at LME expo
    31 July 2019, News
    The Local Southern African Manufacturing Expo (LME), held in Johannesburg in late May, managed to draw a respectable 3473 visitors in its first ever outing. “The Expo was the culmination of a vision that ...
  • Analog Devices explores use-cases for wearable devices
    31 July 2019, Altron Arrow, News
    In general, it is not just about exercising more or better nutritional intake – there is more interest in monitoring certain vital body parameters. This is the reason why companies in the smart watch ...
  • Company profile: BAMR
    31 July 2019, BAMR, News
    BAMR is a Cape Town-based company that supplies, repairs, services and calibrates instruments, especially in the coatings, corrosion, physical paint testing and allied industries. It has been the supplier ...
  • Electronics news digest
    26 June 2019, News
    South Africa • South Africa is looking to take on a leading role in the international space weather monitoring community. Space weather events are capable of seriously disrupting modern technologies ...
  • Clearing the static: ESD testing and monitoring – Part 2
    26 June 2019, Altico Static Control Solutions, News
    Once you’ve identified an ESD protected area (EPA) and the combination of ESD (electrostatic discharge) control products your facility requires, continuous testing and monitoring need to be conducted. ...

Technews Publishing (Pty) Ltd
1st Floor, Stabilitas House
265 Kent Ave, Randburg, 2194
South Africa
Publications by Technews
Dataweek Electronics & Communications Technology
Electronics Buyers’ Guide (EBG)

Hi-Tech Security Solutions
Hi-Tech Security Business Directory

Motion Control in Southern Africa
Motion Control Buyers’ Guide (MCBG)

South African Instrumentation & Control
South African Instrumentation & Control Buyers’ Guide (IBG)
Terms & conditions of use, including privacy policy
PAIA Manual


    Classic | Mobile

Copyright © Technews Publishing (Pty) Ltd. All rights reserved.