Quantum key distribution (QKD) using free space optical (FSO) systems will, in most applications, involve atmospheric propagation. As is well known from classical FSO communication links, turbulence can cause large power variation in the link strength. Optical scintillation can cause fades below and surges above the mean power that last tens of milliseconds. Fades can be as deep as 20-30 dB. Previously we have demonstrated a system that allows laboratory studies of the effects of scintillation that faithfully represent the effects seen in the field. Scintillation is recorded using a modified FSO system and then played back in the laboratory using a fiber optic based system. The result is a laboratory experiment that reproduces, with high fidelity, the field conditions and component performance of the actual link. We have applied this same technique to studying scintillation effects on a QKD link. Scintillation was recorded at the US Naval Research Laboratory’s Maritime Lasercom Testbed This facility has sites on both sides of Chesapeake Bay separated by 16 km. A single-photon scintillation playback system was constructed. This scintillation playback system was designed to implement a BB84 protocol, but other QKD protocols could also be used. After the playback experiment the data can be analyzed to determine key length, error rate and other parameters. The set up can be used to study a variety of protocols for QKD in scintillation. Application to studies such as this will be presented.
William S. Rabinovich, Rita Mahon, Mark Bashkansky, Rachel Freeman, and John Reintjes, "A scintillation playback system for quantum links," Proc. SPIE 10096, Free-Space Laser Communication and Atmospheric Propagation XXIX, 1009604 (Presented at SPIE LASE: January 30, 2017; Published: 24 February 2017); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2250619.
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