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Connecting Ohio: Quantum Network Development for Enhanced Cybersecurity

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The Ohio Department of Higher Education Third Frontier Research Incentive Programme was set to embark on an initiative led by Professor Ronald M Reano from Ohio State’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. This visionary project aims to propel the state of Ohio to the forefront of quantum network development by harnessing the potential of long-distance quantum networks and advancing cybersecurity measures.

The primary objective of this undertaking is to pioneer the development of technologies that facilitate statewide Quantum Key Distribution (QKD). The implementation of QKD holds the promise of revolutionising secure communication over extended distances, potentially transforming the way cities such as Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo, and Cincinnati communicate securely.

Quantum Key Distribution serves as the linchpin for establishing secure encryption keys between remote parties, ensuring that these keys remain impervious to eavesdropping attempts. However, the inherent transmission loss associated with optical fibre presents a fundamental limitation on the transmission distance and rate of key distribution.

Professor Reano, at the helm of this innovative project, envisioned overcoming these challenges by distributing quantum keys at distances of up to 240 kilometres (approximately 150 miles). This goal would enable seamless interconnection between Columbus and all major cities in Ohio, establishing the state as a pioneer in the realm of quantum network development.

The project’s ingenuity lies in the utilisation of Measurement-Device-Independent Quantum Key Distribution (MDI-QKD). In MDI-QKD, a third party, referred to as Charlie, is strategically introduced into the network between the initial two remote communication parties (Alice and Bob). This intervention results in a significant reduction in individual transmission loss, effectively doubling the network distance.

Instead of direct transmission from Alice to Bob, both parties transmit quantum signals to Charlie, who utilises quantum interference to distil secure quantum keys for Alice and Bob.

Central to the MDI-QKD system is Charlie, an assembly comprising four critical superconducting nanowire single-photon detectors, fibre optic communications components, and electronics. The nature of this project is further emphasised by its comprehensive testing approach, starting with controlled laboratory experiments and progressing to field demonstrations utilising real-world, in-ground optical fibre infrastructure managed by OARnet and the Ohio State Office of Technology and Digital Innovation.

Professor Reano envisioned a future where major Ohio institutions, including universities, the Air Force Institute of Technology, the NASA Glenn Research Centre, and the Cleveland Clinic’s quantum computer, are seamlessly interconnected, bridging the gap of multidisciplinary. The project team is committed to engaging and educating senior leaders in Ohio’s industry, business, and commerce sectors, fostering awareness of quantum information science and engineering.

Beyond its immediate goals, the project sets the stage for future advancements in the field. The experimental hardware developed will serve as a research platform accessible to academic, industrial, and government researchers throughout Ohio State. The management of this infrastructure falls under the purview of Ohio State’s Centre for Quantum Information Science and Engineering, highlighting the collaborative nature of this endeavour.

The well-balanced team, including Co-PI Professor Ezekiel Johnston-Halperin and Research Associate Wendson de Sa Barbosa from the Department of Physics, underscored the interdisciplinary approach employed in pushing the boundaries of science, engineering, and technology.

As Ohio has embarked on this ambitious journey, it not only positions itself as a trailblazer in quantum network development but also lays the foundation for a future where secure communication and advanced cybersecurity are seamlessly woven into the fabric of the state’s technological landscape. The potential impact reaches far beyond state borders, with the research platform poised to contribute to quantum advancements on a national and global scale. Ohio’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of technology underscores its dedication to staying at the forefront of innovation and shaping the future of secure communication.


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