Practical free-space quantum key distribution
Gorman, Philip Michael
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Within the last two decades, the world has seen an exponential increase in the quantity of data traffic exchanged electronically. Currently, the widespread use of classical encryption technology provides tolerable levels of security for data in day to day life. However, with one somewhat impractical exception these technologies are based on mathematical complexity and have never been proven to be secure. Significant advances in mathematics or new computer architectures could render these technologies obsolete in a very short timescale. By contrast, Quantum Key Distribution (or Quantum Cryptography as it is sometimes called) offers a theoretically secure method of cryptographic key generation and exchange which is guaranteed by physical laws. Moreover, the technique is capable of eavesdropper detection during the key exchange process. Much research and development work has been undertaken but most of this work has concentrated on the use of optical fibres as the transmission medium for the quantum channel. This thesis discusses the requirements, theoretical basis and practical development of a compact, free-space transmission quantum key distribution system from inception to system tests. Experiments conducted over several distances are outlined which verify the feasibility of quantum key distribution operating continuously over ranges from metres to intercity distances and finally to global reach via the use of satellites.