Quantum Communication

German Ministry Launches Research Initiative »QuNET«

20. Mai 2019, 10:53 Uhr   |     

German Ministry Launches Research Initiative »QuNET«
© Hans-Joachim Rickel, BMBF

Prof. Dr. Andreas Tünnermann, Director at the Fraunhofer IOF, Prof. Dr. Gerd Leuchs, Director at the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Light, Federal Minister Anja Karliczek and Fraunhofer President Prof. Dr. Reimund Neugebauer with an entangled photon pair source for use in space (from left to right).

Interception-proof quantum-based communication networks are to be researched in the »QuNET« research initiative. It is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and led by the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF.

The german Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF – Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung), the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the Max Planck Society and the German Aerospace Center are planning an initiative for a bug-proof quantum communication network. At a press conference at the Fraunhofer Forum in Berlin on 15 May, the German Federal Minister of Education and Research, Anja Karliczek, announced the funding of the »QuNET« initiative. With an initial funding volume of 25 million euros, research will be carried out in the coming years into how the laws of quantum physics can be used for secure communication networks.

Minister Anja Karliczek presented the BMBF's plans: »In the digital age, business and society are more dependent than ever on secure communication. Secure data lines are the lifelines of our age. This is why data exchange must be made as secure as possible. Quantum communication offers unique opportunities for this. Germany and Europe must develop their own competencies in this area so as not to become dependent on others. That is why we must promote research in this future field. Germany and Europe should become the most trustworthy data room in the world – that is why I will put this topic on the German and European agenda. With the 'QuNET' initiative, top German researchers and companies are jointly laying the foundation stone for secure communication in the future. I am grateful to the participants in this unique project for their commitment to this future field.«

The aim of »QuNET« is secure communication between government organisations. However, the seven-year project is also intended to serve as a central platform for the establishment of a German quantum communications infrastructure and will also be groundbreaking for the establishment of a quantum Internet. At the European level, the Federal Government and the »QuNET« consortium partners are pursuing the goal of creating a secure European data area.

Challenges for Quantum Communication

To meet this challenge, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft has joined forces with its Institutes for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF, Jena, and Communications Technology, Heinrich Hertz Institute HHI, Berlin, with the German Aerospace Center and the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Light, Erlangen.

Industrial partners from the fields of telecommunications, system and component development, security and satellite operation are also involved in the project, including companies such as Deutsche Telekom AG, ADVA Optical Networking and Tesat-Spacecom. The close integration with the national industry should ensure the basis for a fast transfer of the solutions developed in the »QuNET« project.

Fraunhofer President Prof. Reimund Neugebauer explained the strategy of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft: »With 'QuNET' we are laying the foundation for the development of a uniform and secure European information and communication infrastructure alongside excellent partners from research, industry and politics. This project makes it possible to further expand Germany's pioneering role and technological leadership in this strategically important area. In the long term, we plan to unite data sovereignty and data security at the highest level in the European data space by combining quantum-based communication infrastructure with the International Data Spaces«.

New Opportunities for the Digital Society

The background to the initiative is the increasing performance of digital technologies that impact today's data networks and pose an increasing threat to the security of our modern information society. Government organizations, banks and security-critical businesses in particular need to rethink and renew their security infrastructures.

Prof. Andreas Tünnermann, head of Fraunhofer IOF and initiator of the »QuNET« project, explains: »The initiative synergetically combines the complementary competencies of high-ranking German research institutions in the field of quantum communication. The project strategically addresses the development of new heterogeneous quantum communication networks that will enable multi-user operation. Thus 'QuNET' will make an important contribution to physically secure communication in Germany and Europe«.

Prof. Gerd Leuchs, Director emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Light, added the technical potential of optical quantum communication: »The special property of quantum measurement, always only a part, but never the entire available information, offers the scope for interesting applications from the perfect random number generator to the unmasking of unauthorized listeners. Both are important for secure communication«.

The project, which is divided into three phases, will be officially launched in autumn 2019. First, the researchers will develop the hardware components, and then they will develop the technical basis for multi-user operation in heterogeneous networks. In the third phase, the network of authorities based on quantum technology is to be implemented together with industry and federal network operators.

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Fraunhofer IOF (Institut für Angewandte Optik und Feinmechanik), Fraunhofer HHI (Institut für Nachrichtentechnik, Heinrich-Hertz-Institut), Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung BMBF, DLR Luft und Raumfahrt