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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter August 12, 2019

Numeric estimation of resource requirements for a practical polarization-frame alignment scheme for quantum key distribution (QKD)

  • Brendon L. Higgins EMAIL logo , Jean-Philippe Bourgoin and Thomas Jennewein


Owing to physical orientations and birefringence effects, practical quantum information protocols utilizing optical polarization need to handle misalignment between preparation and measurement reference frames. For any such capable system, an important question is how many resources – for example, measured single photons – are needed to reliably achieve alignment precision sufficient for the desired quantum protocol. Here, we study the performance of a polarization-frame alignment scheme used in prior laboratory and field quantum key distribution (QKD) experiments by performing Monte Carlo numerical simulations. The scheme utilizes, to the extent possible, the same single-photon-level signals and measurements as for the QKD protocol being supported. Even with detector noise and imperfect sources, our analysis shows that only a small fraction of resources from the overall signal – a few hundred photon detections, in total – are required for good performance, restoring the state to better than 99% of its original quality.

Corresponding author: Brendon L. Higgins, Institute for Quantum Computing and Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Waterloo, WaterlooN2L 3G1, Ontario, Canada, E-mail:

Funding source: NSERC

Funding source: Canadian Space Agency

Funding source: CFI

Funding source: CIFAR

Funding source: Industry Canada

Funding source: FedDev Ontario

Funding source: Ontario Research Fund


The authors thank Nikolay Gigov for helpful discussions.

  1. Author contributions: All the authors have accepted responsibility for the entire content of this submitted manuscript and approved submission.

  2. Research funding: This work was supported by the NSERC, Canadian Space Agency, CFI, CIFAR, Industry Canada, FedDev Ontario, and Ontario Research Fund (Canada). B.L.H. acknowledges support from NSERC Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships (Canada).

  3. Competing interests: The authors declare no conflicts of interest regarding this article.


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Received: 2020-05-13
Accepted: 2020-07-07
Published Online: 2019-08-12
Published in Print: 2020-11-26

© 2020 Brendon L. Higgins et al.,published by De Gruyter

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