Ohio State awarded $1M grant to create Ohio’s first intercity quantum network

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The Center for Quantum Information Science and Engineering (CQISE) will be the administrative home for a $1 million, three-year congressionally directed U.S. Department of Education award to create a quantum communications link that establishes a quantum-secure network between The Ohio State University in Columbus and the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) in Dayton.

The project will be the first part of a larger vision for a quantum network that extends to other sites and cities in Ohio and the surrounding areas.

Quantum-secure networks promise significant enhancements in security relative to conventional networks that carry classical information, including the potential for “un-hackable” communications that are impervious to both classical and quantum-based eavesdropping.

CQISE Co-Directors Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Ronald M. Reano, lead principal investigator, and Physics Professor Ezekiel Johnston-Halperin, co-lead principal investigator, direct a multidisciplinary team of students and researchers who are working on the project.

The researchers plan to install and operate the quantum network, set up laboratory and field experiments, and collect and analyze data between transmitter and receiver. The quantum links will involve optical fiber communications and the resultant characterization of required laser powers system, receiver signal-to-noise ratios, and link stabilities as a function of time and distance. 

Data will be collected and measured in three different length scales: short range (year one), intermediate (year two) and long range (year three). 

Professor Ronald Reano
Professor Reano

“The first tests will be in relatively controlled environments in order to baseline the hardware and conduct a thorough characterization of the quantum links by implementing basic protocols. The links will then be implemented in the field, which will be very exciting,” Reano said. 

Field implementation will involve interfacing the project with the Ohio Academic Resources Network (OARnet) to access in-ground optical fiber. OARnet technical staff will work with the university to plug transmitter and receivers with data being collected during various times of the day to characterize and optimize the network’s operation in dynamic, real-world conditions over increasingly larger distances.  

“We will investigate a variety of use-cases for point-to-point quantum key distribution,” Johnston-Halperin said. “Applications where there is high volume and high traffic present in the network justify quantum security. Two specific use cases include the financial sector and the medical record sector.” 

Reano and Johnston-Halperin acknowledge tremendous support at multiple levels for the new project. Special thanks are extended to Senator Sherrod Brown and Congressman Mike Carey; Stan Skocki, Ohio State associate vice president for government affairs and director for federal relations; and Ohio State’s Enterprise for Research Innovation and Knowledge.

edited version of CQISE article