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Implementation of quantum key distribution and quantum clock synchronization via time bin encoding


Williams, James; Suchara, Martin; Zhong, Tian; Qiao, Hong; Kettimuthu, Rajkumar; Fukumori, Rikuto


Quantum key distribution allows for a provably secure transmission of cryptographic keys over an optical channel. Encoded polarization states or time-bin degree of freedom have been used for successful demonstrations. However, photon losses in long fibers, slow single photon detectors, and detector dark counts significantly limit the overall bit rate. Improving key throughput and reducing the overhead of key reconciliation remain as major challenges. Methods which utilize multiple time bins allow for multiple key bits to be encoded in a single photon, thus increasing the fidelity of transmitted keys and decreasing the overhead of key reconciliation in real-world conditions. Previous implementations of these methods required that Alice and Bob share a time reference by sharing a dedicated classical channel used for synchronization. This work presents a technique that allows two parties to exchange time-bin encoded photons without the need for synchronized time references. Our technique uses a framing protocol which allows Alice to encode a time reference along with a key which is determined by Alice before transmission. Security can be achieved by monitoring the visibility of a pair of Franson interferometers, using decoy pulses and measuring the round trip time between Alice and Bob. The bit rate of this technique is limited only by the recovery time of the detector and the speed of the modulation electronics. We experimentally demonstrate a raw bit rate of 5Mb/s over an optical channel with 55dB of loss, which is competitive with current research. We also demonstrate absolute timing synchronization with an accuracy of 20ps.