News › Fraun­ho­fer IOF • Quan­tum high­way in Thuringia

»There is no way around Thu­rin­gia on the future quan­tum highway«

New hub for quan­tum com­mu­ni­ca­tion in Ger­many is being built in Erfurt: New rese­arch pro­ject Q‑net‑Q launched

The Free State of Thu­rin­gia wants to become an important hub for the Ger­man quan­tum net­work. With various pro­jects, the state, the fede­ral govern­ment and the Euro­pean Union are dri­ving for­ward the expan­sion of a net­work for quan­tum com­mu­ni­ca­tion in Ger­many. Exis­ting test links for rese­ar­ching quan­tum-secu­red fiber links bet­ween Erfurt and Jena are now to be exten­ded by new sec­tions in the direc­tion of Nord­hau­sen and, in per­spec­tive, Ber­lin and Frank­furt am Main. A visit by Thuringia’s Sci­ence Minis­ter Wolf­gang Tie­fen­see to the Fraun­ho­fer Cen­ter in Erfurt on Thurs­day marked the start of fur­ther route expan­sion, which is being car­ried out as part of the new Q‑net‑Q rese­arch project.

In the heart of Ger­many lies the Free State of Thu­rin­gia. And at its heart, in turn, lies the state capi­tal Erfurt. Due to this geo­gra­phi­cal loca­tion alone, Erfurt is pre­desti­ned to become a cen­tral hub for a future quan­tum net­work in Ger­many. The Free State of Thu­rin­gia has reco­gni­zed this poten­tial and is fun­ding a wide range of pro­jects that advance rese­arch into quan­tum com­mu­ni­ca­tion as well as quan­tum computing.

On Thurs­day, Thuringia’s Sci­ence Minis­ter Wolf­gang Tie­fen­see visi­ted the Fraun­ho­fer Cen­ter in Erfurt to review the pro­gress of exis­ting rese­arch pro­jects and to give the go-ahead for the expan­sion of the quan­tum net­work in Ger­many. »Thu­rin­gia is one of the lea­ding loca­ti­ons in the field of quan­tum com­mu­ni­ca­tion. As a state, we have been making tar­ge­ted invest­ments for years in expan­ding the exper­tise and infra­struc­ture requi­red for this. The expan­sion of the exis­ting test link is ano­ther major step in this direc­tion. In this way, we are crea­ting the con­di­ti­ons for a secure quan­tum com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ons infra­struc­ture throug­hout Ger­many. Thu­rin­gia, with its rese­arch insti­tu­ti­ons and com­pa­nies, will form a cen­tral hub in this in the future,« he explai­ned during his visit.

Exis­ting fiber link to be exten­ded to over 150 kilometers

With fun­ding from the state, an opti­cal fiber test link has alre­ady been estab­lished bet­ween the Fraun­ho­fer Insti­tute for Applied Optics and Pre­cis­ion Engi­nee­ring IOF in Jena and the Fraun­ho­fer Cen­ter in Erfurt. Here, quan­tum keys have alre­ady been suc­cessfully exch­an­ged bet­ween Thuringia’s metro­po­li­tan cities over a distance of 75 kilo­me­ters – as part of the QuNET initia­tive fun­ded by the Ger­man Fede­ral Minis­try of Edu­ca­tion and Rese­arch (BMBF).

The spe­cial high­light here: For the test link, it was pos­si­ble to use an exis­ting infra­struc­ture of con­ven­tio­nal tele­com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ons fiber optics. This means that no new, expen­sive infra­struc­ture had to be instal­led. The cur­rent sub­ject of rese­arch is how the latest sys­tems for so-cal­led quan­tum key dis­tri­bu­tion can be inte­gra­ted into these exis­ting net­works and made usable for various fields of application.

To address this issue, an exten­sion of the test is plan­ned, which is now moving for­ward: The Thu­rin­gian com­mu­ni­ties of Nord­hau­sen and Sund­hau­sen will be con­nec­ted to the exis­ting link bet­ween Jena and Erfurt by 2024. Fur­ther­more, within Jena, the Uni­ver­sity Hos­pi­tal will also be con­nec­ted to the test link. This will extend the fiber-based test route to a total length of more than 150 kilo­me­ters. Fur­ther sec­tions are plan­ned as far as Ber­lin and Frank­furt am Main by the end of 2024.

The hub of this plan­ned net­work will be the Fraun­ho­fer Cen­ter in Erfurt. »There is no way around Thu­rin­gia on the future quan­tum high­way,« com­men­ted Prof. Dr. Andreas Tün­ner­mann, direc­tor of Fraun­ho­fer IOF, in Erfurt on Thurs­day. The net­work expan­sion and the asso­cia­ted deve­lo­p­ment of stra­te­gic coope­ra­ti­ons in the field of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and infor­ma­tion tech­no­logy will take place within the frame­work of a new rese­arch pro­ject cal­led Q‑net‑Q.

Exten­ded fiber link tes­ted initi­ally for the exch­ange of pati­ent data

In the Q‑net‑Q pro­ject, led by Nord­hau­sen Uni­ver­sity of Applied Sci­en­ces and with the par­ti­ci­pa­tion of Fraun­ho­fer IOF, the appli­ca­tion poten­tial of high-secu­rity quan­tum com­mu­ni­ca­tion for tele­me­di­cal soft­ware will initi­ally be tes­ted as an exam­ple. The gui­ding idea behind this: Rural regi­ons in par­ti­cu­lar often suf­fer from a serious shortage of (spe­cia­list) phy­si­ci­ans. A fas­ter and more con­fi­den­tial exch­ange of pati­ent data bet­ween urban and rural areas could the­r­e­fore not only make medi­cal care more con­ve­ni­ent and effi­ci­ent in the future, but it could even save lives.

Against this back­drop, the Thu­rin­gian com­mu­nity of Sund­hau­sen will also be con­nec­ted to the new fiber-optic test link as an exam­ple of a rural region. The first con­crete use cases for the new sec­tion bet­ween Sund­hau­sen and the Jena Uni­ver­sity Hos­pi­tal will be in the area of fol­low-up care (e.g., post-inpa­ti­ent hos­pi­ta­liza­tion) for post-COVID pati­ents on the one hand, and in early neu­ro­lo­gi­cal detec­tion using digi­tal tests (e.g., demen­tia detec­tion) on the other.

Fur­ther link expan­sion plan­ned in 2024 to Ber­lin and Frank­furt am Main

The fur­ther plan­ned link sec­tions to Ber­lin and Frank­furt am Main, data exch­ange bet­ween data cen­ters and in high-speed con­nec­tions will be the focus of rese­arch in per­spec­tive. »Within the frame­work of the Q‑net‑Q pro­ject, we basi­cally want to rese­arch how the phy­si­cally secu­rely gene­ra­ted quan­tum clo­sures from QKD sys­tems can be effi­ci­ently inte­gra­ted in today’s Inter­net to secure com­mu­ni­ca­tion paths,« says Prof. Dr. Tho­mas Hühn from Nord­hau­sen Uni­ver­sity of Applied Sci­en­ces, explai­ning the over­all pro­ject goal.

Around 12 mil­lion euros in fun­ding for Q‑net‑Q from EU and BMBF

The Q‑net‑Q pro­ject is being imple­men­ted as part of the Euro­pean pro­gram Euro­QCI. The EU and the BMBF are fun­ding the pro­ject with a total of 11.8 mil­lion euros.

In addi­tion to Fraun­ho­fer IOF and the Nord­hau­sen Uni­ver­sity of Applied Sci­en­ces, which is acting as con­sor­tium lea­der, the Q‑net‑Q rese­arch asso­cia­tion includes five other aca­de­mic part­ners: the Tech­ni­cal Uni­ver­sity of Munich, the Tech­ni­cal Uni­ver­sity of Ber­lin, the Fried­rich Alex­an­der Uni­ver­sity of Erlan­gen-Nurem­berg and the Fraun­ho­fer HHI. Fur­ther­more, two indus­trial part­ners, Uti­maco GmbH and DE-CIX Manage­ment GmbH, are also invol­ved in the project.

The fol­lo­wing link leads you to the com­plete press release inclu­ding a com­pre­hen­sive FAQ about quan­tum com­mu­ni­ca­tion: