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Free-space quantum communication technology

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Saturday, February 29, 2020
  • 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 quantum communications has seen a surge in interest and investment after a ground-breaking demonstration by international researchers using a low-Earth orbit satellite [1]. Free-space implementations have some advantages over terrestrial optical fibre systems, such as the capability to share quantum encryption keys over a global scale and perform “last-mile” communications where a terrestrial fibre link is not available.

There are a variety of aerial and satellite platforms which can be used for 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.

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.

An ideal candidate should have a good understanding of optics and photonics. Candidates from engineering disciplines are also encourage to apply for the project, even though they may not have the quantum expertise. 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. Previous experience of laboratory work is expected. 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

DTP– 3.5 years @ £14,553 per year (UK only)


1. J. Yin, et al., "Satellite-based entanglement distribution over 1200 kilometers," Science (80-. ). 356(6343), 1140–1144 (2017).
2. S. Nauerth, F. Moll, M. Rau, C. Fuchs, J. Horwath, S. Frick, and H. Weinfurter, "Air-to-ground quantum communication," Nat. Photonics 7(5), 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. 8(3), 249–262 (2016).
4. R. Bedington, J. M. A. Mantilla, and A. Ling, "Progress in satellite quantum key distribution," (2017).

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