Application Center Quantum Communication with new services

28 August, 2023 4:00 pm

Featured image: © Fraunhofer IIS/EAS, Foto: BLEND3 Frank Grätz. Alignment work in the Application Center Quantum Communication at Fraunhofer IIS/EAS

Press release Fraunhofer IIS/EAS, 28 Aug 2023

Fraunhofer IIS/EAS in Dresden is further expanding the Application Center “Design of Scalable Electronic Systems for Quantum Communication”. In addition to experimental environments and design services for the development of microelectronic components, the center offers companies and researchers a “test track” for quantum communication. The focus here is on modular microelectronic circuits for tap-proof data transmission.

More and more, the Quantum Communication Application Center at Fraunhofer IIS/EAS is becoming a central venue for the development of microelectronic components for this special field of application. Together with partners from the business community, the researchers are working to design components that are precisely tailored to this type of data transmission, to characterize and test them – either in an in-house test environment, or with the help of a test setup within Dresden. After all, making sure that the pioneering field of quantum communication can deliver data transmission capable of withstanding attacks from even the most powerful computers calls for special electronics.

© Fraunhofer IIS/EAS, Foto: BLEND3 Frank Grätz
Quantum communication systems enable secure data transmission between sender (here in the lab setup “Alice”) and receiver via a secret key exchange using light quanta

“Research into developing and miniaturizing optical components for tomorrow’s quantum communication has been going on for years. Germany and Europe are making great strides in this area,” explains Johannes Verst, CEO of the Quantum Business Network (QBN), of which Fraunhofer IIS/EAS is a member. “But there’s still a lot of catching up to do, especially when it comes to designing secure miniaturized microelectronics for these solutions. So the services available at the application center are the ideal complement to our network’s portfolio as we strive to further enhance our community’s innovative prowess.”

Since not just the optics but also the electronics used in quantum communication are essential for developing attack-proof overall systems, the Fraunhofer IIS/EAS Application Center has made it its mission to come up with a secure, modular design for these special microelectronics. The center’s researchers offer companies in this segment an extensive portfolio of services, ranging from joint development of electronic components and design services to secure implementation. For the latter, the center provides comprehensive electronic measurement equipment up to the Gigahertz range, which can also be used to characterize circuits.

Rounding out the portfolio of services are an in-house quantum communication test bed and an intraurban quantum communication demonstrator. Using individual polarization-entangled photons, it is possible to securely exchange quantum keys – either inside the institute building, or via a five-kilometer fiber-optic track leading to a second Fraunhofer institute in Dresden. The researchers’ medium-term goal is to work with optics experts based in Jena to achieve quantum key exchange via so-called trusted nodes over the roughly 220-kilometer distance between the two cities. The aim of all test activities is to put the communication connections into practice in order to define the additionally required specifications for miniaturized electronic components. These results are then fed back into the development work carried out at the Application Center Quantum Communication and into the QBN with a view to preparing the German and European economy for this promising application area.

The expansion of the Application Center Quantum Communication has received funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and from the state budget passed by the Saxon State Parliament.

Many of the cryptographic encryption methods used today, in online banking and other fields, will in principle be vulnerable in the future due to the advancing development of quantum computers. That is why new methods for the secure transmission of data and information need to be researched today. Encryption methods that can replace or usefully supplement conventional ones already exist. The basis for each of these is a secret key that is exclusively available to the sender and receiver. This is where quantum communication comes in, and with it systems that use light quanta to enable secret key exchange, because quantum keys cannot be intercepted unnoticed due to physical laws. On the other hand, the data to be transmitted, encrypted on the basis of quantum technology, can be transported via a conventional connection.

The EAS Division of Fraunhofer IIS
The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS is one of Germany’s most important industrial applied research facilities for the development of microelectronic systems. The scientists in the Division Engineering of Adaptive Systems EAS, located in Dresden, develop key technologies for the
connected world of tomorrow. Major aspects of their work are the design of reliable microchips and complex electronic systems in leading-edge semiconductor technologies as well as the corresponding design methods. Furthermore, they focus on the development of intelligent sensor systems, the analysis of large amounts of data as well as on new approaches for distributed control systems. Tailored to current industrial needs and future challenges, the researchers work on adaptive and robust technological solutions in a broad range of applications such as mobility and industrial automation.

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