Quantum Key Distribution Data Post-Processing with Limited Resources: Towards Satellite-Based Quantum Communication
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Quantum key distribution (QKD), a novel cryptographic technique for secure distribution of secret keys between two parties, is the first successful quantum technology to emerge from quantum information science. The security of QKD is guaranteed by fundamental properties of quantum mechanical systems, unlike public-key cryptography whose security depends on difficult to solve mathematical problems such as factoring. Current terrestrial quantum links are limited to about 250 km. However, QKD could soon be deployed on a global scale over free-space links to an orbiting satellite used as a trusted node. Envisioning a photonic uplink to a quantum receiver positioned on a low Earth orbit satellite, the Canadian Quantum Encryption and Science Satellite (QEYSSat) is a collaborative project involving Canadian universities, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and industry partners. This thesis presents some of the research conducted towards feasibility studies of the QEYSSat mission. One of the main goals of this research is to develop technologies for data acquisition and processing required for a satellite-based QKD system. A working testbed system helps to establish firmly grounded estimates of the overall complexity, the computing resources necessary, and the bandwidth requirements of the classical communication channel. It can also serve as a good foundation for the design and development of a future payload computer onboard QEYSSat. This thesis describes the design and implementation of a QKD post-processing system which aims to minimize the computing requirements at one side of the link, unlike most traditional implementations which assume symmetric computing resources at each end. The post-processing software features precise coincidence analysis, error correction based on low-density parity-check codes, privacy amplification employing Toeplitz hash functions, and a procedure for automated polarization alignment. The system's hardware and software components integrate fully with a quantum optical apparatus used to demonstrate the feasibility of QKD with a satellite uplink. Detailed computing resource requirements and QKD results from the operation of the entire system at high-loss regimes are presented here.