Quantum photonics covers the generation, manipulation and detection of light at the quantum level. It will enable new secure communication protocols, connect quantum computers and play a significant role in sensing and imaging for healthcare, defence and security and environmental monitoring.
NPL measures the parameters which characterise the behaviour of quantum photonic components and systems (including single-photon sources, devices and detectors). These parameters are not always directly derived from conventional units of the SI system in the same way as quantities such as acceleration, resistance or power. The quantum-optical metrics we use reflect the utility of these devices for applications such as quantum random number generators (QRNGs) and quantum key distribution (QKD). Our measurements underpin the demonstration, evaluation and commercialisation of these new quantum technologies.
We work with the National Cyber Security Centre and are a partner in the UK Quantum Communications Hub. We collaborate with industrial partners (including BT, Toshiba Europe Ltd, KETS Quantum Security Ltd), other national metrology institutes (including those in Germany and Italy), academia (including the Universities of Cambridge, Cardiff, Kent and York), and contribute to the work of organisations developing standards (including ETSI and ISO/IEC) to develop measurement standards.
We provide SI-traceable measurements in key areas:
Single-photon sources - Measurements can be performed in the visible/near-infrared part of the spectrum, and we are expanding these to cover the important telecom region. Measurements can be performed at cryogenic and ambient temperatures.
Single-photon detectors - Measurements can be performed on free-space and fibre-coupled single-photon detectors in the visible/near infrared and on fibre-coupled single-photon detectors at telecom wavelengths.
Quantum random number generators and quantum key distribution systems - QRNGs and QKD systems have matured to the point where commercial products are now available. These products promise enhanced security for our digital infrastructure. NPL is applying its expertise in single- and few-photon metrology to provide measurements for the security assurance of QRNGs and QKD systems.
This work is now being extended to address the measurement requirements anticipated for quantum networks.
Find out more about single-photon detector calibration
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