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Aerial and satellite based quantum communications

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Tuesday, December 31, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

Project Description

Quantum communications offers a realistic possibility to share encryption keys that are future proof against advances in hacking algorithms and secure against eavesdropping attacks. Free-space implementations have some advantages over terrestrial optical fibre systems, such as the capability to share quantum encryption keys over a global scale. The research area has seen a surge in interest and investment after a ground-breaking demonstration by international researchers using a low-Earth orbit satellite [1]. This project revolves around technology development, field trials, and novel applications. We encourage candidates from engineering backgrounds to apply.

There are a variety of aerial and satellite platforms which can be used for long-distance free-space quantum communications; such as planes [2], high-altitude platforms [3], and low-Earth orbit satellites [4]. During this PhD, you will investigate quantum communications using various different transmitter platforms and optical channels. This will involve both desk-based studies and hands-on experimental work giving the PhD student a well-rounded experience. This PhD student will also collaborate with leading academic and industrial teams.

The PhD student will join the Single-Photon Group ( under the supervision of a Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellow, Dr Ross Donaldson, for a 3.5 year fully funded PhD position. The Single-Photon Group has a long-standing track record in researching ground-breaking quantum communication systems, which has led to them playing a leading role in the UK National Quantum Technology Programme, especially through the EPSRC Quantum Technology Hub which is a £25M research consortium containing a number of the UK’s leading Universities and industrial companies. The group has well equipped state-of-the-art research facilities as well as an experienced team of approximately 5 postdocs/research fellows, 6 full-time PhD students.

In this project, you will develop significant expertise in system modelling and hands-on experimental techniques for free-space quantum communications. You will build skills in programming, free-space optical design/construction, single-photon detection, and implementing field trials. Throughout this project, you will have many opportunities to develop communication skills through industrial and academic collaborations, the publication of peer-reviewed papers, and attendance of conferences/workshops.

The candidate should be strongly motivated to pursue the 3.5 years of intensive academic work. A good ability to work both individually and in a group is required. Experience with programming languages, such as Matlab, would be highly advantageous. The PhD student will work closely with industrial partners, and a candidate with industrial experience would be advantageous.

Funding Notes

The annual stipend will be approx. £14,777 and full fees will be paid, for 3.5 years.


[1] J. Yin et al., “Satellite-based entanglement distribution over 1200 kilometers,” Science (80-. )., vol. 356, no. 6343, pp. 1140–1144, 2017.
[2] S. Nauerth et al., “Air-to-ground quantum communication,” Nat. Photonics, vol. 7, no. 5, pp. 382–386, 2013.
[3] F. A. D’Oliveira, F. C. L. De Melo, and T. C. Devezas, “High-altitude platforms — Present situation and technology trends,” J. Aerosp. Technol. Manag., vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 249–262, 2016.
[4] R. Bedington, J. M. A. Mantilla, and A. Ling, “Progress in satellite quantum key distribution,” Jul. 2017.

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