Battelle to test quantum key distribution on Ohio fiber-optic network

Battelle Memorial Institute, which has operated the first commercial quantum key distribution (QKD) network in the United States for nearly a year, is setting up a test bed for QKD technologies.

Battelle Memorial Institute, which has operated the first commercial quantum key distribution (QKD) network in the United States for nearly a year, is setting up a test bed for QKD technologies.

The research institute has agreed to a five-year deal with neighboring Dublin, OH, to use part of the city's fiber-optic network for free so its scientists can test QKD hardware. The research will be aided by the developer of the QKD hardware, ID Quantique.

The deal also allows other researchers and businesses to join Battelle in using dubLINK, a 100-km ring of in-ground fiber-optic cable circling central Ohio. Additional fibers in a 25-km ring belonging to Dublin also will be available, enablng researchers in quantum communication to perform real-world testing on advanced hardware on a cable test bed up to 400 km in length.

"Dublin is a forward-thinking city, and the people there are generous to allow us to perform this testing," said Don Hayford, senior research leader in charge of Battelle's QKD program. "This is an important step forward, not only for testing our hardware and strengthening our network, but for providing a place for QKD developers to prove out their hardware."

Currently, Battelle is using its own 1-Gbps, 62-km QKD high-speed network between its headquarters in Columbus and manufacturing offices in Dublin, one of the first commercial QKD applications in the U.S. Information such as financial reports, intellectual property, drawings, designs, and more are transferred between those facilities. In future, the institute plans to connect other Battelle offices in central Ohio and Washington, DC. But for now, the use of dubLINK makes it possible to put the technology through its paces in a real-world setting.

"Battelle's use of the dubLINK fiber-optic system for this exciting project reinforces its value as a research platform," said Dana McDaniel, director of development for the City of Dublin. "DubLINK's speed and capacity far exceeds the norm. We will continue to leverage dubLINK in this fashion to attract high tech projects and companies who depend on extensive broadband infrastructure."

Testing will begin early next year and scientists will be examining specific subjects such as key rates, quantum bit error rates, and how QKD signals could merge and co-exist on the same fiber with existing telecommunications. While products based on QKD technology already are being used by banks and governments in Europe – especially Switzerland, where ID Quantique is headquartered – they have not been widely deployed commercially in the United States.

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