The ideal wavelength for daylight free-space quantum key distribution

Abasifard, Mostafa and Cholsuk, Chanaprom and Pousa, Roberto G. and Kumar, Anand and Zand, Ashkan and Riel, Thomas and Oi, Daniel K. L. and Vogl, Tobias (2024) The ideal wavelength for daylight free-space quantum key distribution. APL Quantum, 1 (1). 016113. ISSN 2835-0103 (

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Quantum key distribution (QKD) has matured in recent years from laboratory proof-of-principle demonstrations to commercially available systems. One of the major bottlenecks is the limited communication distance in fiber networks due to the exponential signal damping. To bridge intercontinental distances, low Earth orbit satellites transmitting quantum signals over the atmosphere can be used. These free-space links, however, can only operate during the night, as the sunlight otherwise saturates the detectors used to measure the quantum states. For applying QKD in a global quantum internet with continuous availability and high data rates, operation during daylight is required. In this work, we model a satellite-to-ground quantum channel for different quantum light sources to identify the optimal wavelength for free-space QKD under ambient conditions. Daylight quantum communication is possible within the Fraunhofer lines or in the near-infrared spectrum, where the intrinsic background from the sun is comparably low. The highest annual secret key length considering the finite key effect is achievable at the Hα Fraunhofer line. More importantly, we provide the fundamental model that can be adapted, in general, to any other specific link scenario taking into account the required modifications. We also propose a true single-photon source based on a color center in hexagonal boron nitride coupled to a microresonator that can implement such a scheme. Our results can also be applied in roof-to-roof scenarios and are, therefore, relevant for near-future quantum networks.