The European Commission recognized the UNIQORN research project in its Innovation Radar for the development of a "novel technology for quantum communications, including design and production of the demonstrator of a fully integrated on-chip subsystem." The EU expert panel stated that the respective technology covers the needs of existing markets and deems it "tech ready". As part of the EU analysis, the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute (HHI) and its project partners Technische Universiteit Eindhoven and University of Bristol were highlighted as "Key Innovators".
Launched in 2018, the UNIQORN initiative aims to develop quantum technologies for the mass market. Quantum communication holds enormous potential for information-theoretic data security: Quantum communication systems can be used, for example, to generate true random numbers and ensure secure key distribution. Practical implementation of future applications requires not only powerful, but also compact and cost-effective modules.
UNIQORN addresses this issue by using photonic technologies in quantum communication and integrating complex systems, which previously required optical setups on the order of meters, on millimeter-sized chips. They form the basis for highly miniaturized optical systems that can leverage quantum mechanical properties such as entanglement and squeezed light to the full (system-on-chip solution). This allows not only a significant reduction in dimension and cost, but also improvements in durability and reproducibility.
Fraunhofer HHI is involved in the flagship project with its Hybrid PICs research group of the "Photonic Components" department. As part of UNIQORN, the researchers use Fraunhofer HHI's hybrid photonic integration platform PolyBoard to miniaturize current quantum communication setups existing on large optical benches. For this purpose, Fraunhofer HHI researchers combine nonlinear optical components of the project partners with its integration platform.
With the EU Commission's analysis result, the innovation "Novel technology for quantum communication, including design and production of a demonstrator of a fully integrated on-chip sub-system" is now featured among the more than 6,300 innovations shown on the EU Innovation Radar platform. This platform draws on information and data collected by independent experts involved in the review of ongoing research and innovation projects funded by the EU Commission. The expert panel also provides an independent view of the innovations pioneered in the projects and their market potential.
Within the UNIQORN consortium, coordinated by the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, 17 partners from all over Europe work on a multidisciplinary research agenda. In addition to Fraunhofer HHI and AIT, two other research institutions (imec Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre, University of Bristol) contribute their distinct experience in transferring fundamental research into applications.
Furthermore, the project can benefit from quantum researchers with theoretical and experimental know-how (University of Vienna, University of Paderborn, University of Innsbruck, Technical University of Denmark) as well as experts in the fields of photonics and electronics, integration and packaging (Eindhoven University of Technology, Micro-Photon-Devices, Politecnico Milano, SMART Photonics, Institute of Computer and Communication Systems Athens, VPI Photonics, Cordon Electronics). The system provider Mellanox and the mobile operator Cosmote contribute their industrial end-user perspective.