COMMUNICATION & SECURITY
KATANYA KUNTZ Research Associate, IQC
CANADA’S QUANTUM INTERNET
The quantum revolution is happening, and that means our private information won't stay private for long. Powerful quantum computers will have the ability to crack the encryption of public keys that we currently use to secure our banking and so much more.
But there is hope for the future. Quantum physics also provides a way to secure our information with an unbreakable lock: Quantum Key Distribution (QKD).
“If you slap the surface of a pond, you make a ripple in the water,” said Katanya Kuntz. “That's like what happens when an eavesdropper tries to hack a QKD channel. We can see that they disturbed the system when they attempt to learn the secret key.”
Kuntz and the rest of the Quantum EncrYption and Science Satellite (QEYSSat) mission Science Team, led by IQC Principal Investigator Thomas Jennewein, are working towards the launch of Canada’s first quantum satellite in 2023. In addition to serving as a technology demonstration for quantum satellite links in Canada, QEYSSat will also serve as a test bed for fundamental open questions about the nature of quantum reality.
Getting a satellite loaded with quantum communications technology into orbit and linking with multiple Quantum Ground Stations and experiments is a massive undertaking. So, Kuntz plays a crucial role in coordinating the QEYSSat Science Team, consisting of a growing list of participating Canadian institutions and international collaborators. She also worked on several quantum optics experiments related to the project as a postdoctoral fellow under Jennewein since joining the Quantum Photonics Laboratory group in 2015.
What's next on the horizon for Kuntz and the team? QEYSSat 2.0: A Roadmap for Canadian Quantum Satellite Missions, a new National Research Council Canada project in collaboration with Defence Research and Development Canada, looking at how quantum technologies in space can enable a large-scale national Quantum Internet.
MICHAEL GRABOWECKY Master’s student, Physics and Astronomy, IQC
PUTTING THEORY INTO PRACTICE
Michael Grabowecky was visiting Waterloo looking for theory positions to pursue for his master’s when IQC and Physics and Astronomy faculty member Kevin Resch invited him to view the forest of optics and lasers in the Quantum Optics and Quantum Information Laboratory. He knew he’d found his new home.
“I could apply the theory I learned in undergrad and see how that works in an experimental setting,” said Grabowecky.
Currently working on his thesis, Grabowecky is studying the fundamental behaviour of three-level photonic systems — qutrits — without any theoretical assumptions.
“We’re not assuming that quantum mechanics or any other theory is correct,” said Grabowecky. “All we’re doing is generating these photons, manipulating them in a bunch of different ways, and then collecting them.”
The advantage of an agnostic approach is that researchers can compare the predictions of novel theories with their comprehensive dataset and see if the new idea is a plausible alternative to quantum theory or if it does not correspond to how photons actually behave.
“There are gaps in our understanding of the world. If we want to know how the world works at a fundamental level, we need to study it with as few assumptions as possible.”
Grabowecky’s theoretical work as an undergrad culminated in a publication analyzing quantum superchannels as potential tools for the development of quantum resource theories as well as future communication protocols. Moving from theory to experiment seemed like a logical next step, and now Grabowecky is considering how his career will evolve once he’s done his thesis. The assortment of quantum-related start-up companies in the Waterloo area, many started by IQC members, present a fascinating opportunity for a future full of promising possibilities.
“Part of the reason I chose IQC was because I knew I would have that option to stay in academia or do something else because I know Waterloo breeds success in different areas.”