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.
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.
Author contributions: All the authors have accepted responsibility for the entire content of this submitted manuscript and approved submission.
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).
Competing interests: The authors declare no conflicts of interest regarding this article.
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© 2020 Brendon L. Higgins et al.,published by De Gruyter