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Long-distance free-space quantum key distribution in daylight towards inter-satellite communication

ABSTRACT

In the past, long-distance free-space quantum communication experiments could only be implemented at night. During the daytime, the bright background sunlight prohibits quantum communication in transmission under conditions of high channel loss over long distances. Here, by choosing a working wavelength of 1,550 nm and developing free-space single-mode fibre-coupling technology and ultralow-noise upconversion single-photon detectors, we have overcome the noise due to sunlight and demonstrate free-space quantum key distribution over 53 km during the day. The total channel loss is ∼48 dB, which is greater than the 40 dB channel loss between the satellite and ground and between low-Earth-orbit satellites. Our system thus demonstrates the feasibility of satellite-based quantum communication in daylight. Moreover, given that our working wavelength is located in the optical telecom band, our system is naturally compatible with ground fibre networks and thus represents an essential step towards a satellite-constellation-based global quantum network.

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