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ESA Open Invitation to Tender: 1-11322
Open Date: 06/10/2022 13:49 CEST
Closing Date: 12/01/2023 13:00 CEST

Objective: Design and implement an Elegant Breadboard (EBB) for a quantum memory device capable of demonstrating high optical efficiency and long storage times, targeting future applications as a part of a satellite payload for long-range quantum communications. The EBB will be used to benchmark performance of the selected memory system, and to provide preliminary system level requirements to define the future steps of the development plan. Targeted Improvements: A space-deployable quantum memory would enable long-distance quantum communication. A specific application for instance is performing Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) across global distances without intermediate trusted nodes. Description: Distribution of quantum entanglement is a valuable resource for many applications from networking of quantum computers to enabling the generation of secure keys for encryption (QKD). However, quantum states of light cannot be amplified in the traditional sense since any measurement will affect the state and it cannot be re-created in the same way. Therefore, quantum communication links over optical fibre are currently limited to 100 km, when transmission rates become impractically low due to absorption. Free-space transmission via satellites can allow longer distances between ground stations but remains constrained by the condition that the satellite requires simultaneous line of sight to the two ground stations for some length of time (1200 km ground separation distance was demonstrated by the Chinese Micius satellite). A quantum memory is a device that can store an incoming photon and efficiently retrieve the same photon on-demand without disturbing the quantum state. Such a device would allow global distribution of quantum information, unlocking global, end-to-end QKD capabilities without the need for intermediate trusted nodes. There are many systems considered as candidates for quantum memories, with one notable system being crystals doped with rare-earth ions. There are a variety of different dopant/host combinations which have been studied for various quantum mechanical phenomena, and many elements necessary for a practical quantum memory have been shown, such as long storage times (>6 hours in Eu:YSO) and high efficiency optical storage and recall. However, the research largely focuses on optimisation of single parameters, and a system demonstrating all necessary aspects simultaneously remains to be developed. The target of this activity is to develop an EBB ofa quantum memory device which can show efficiencies >50%, storage times >minutes, and multi-mode storage capability. This EBB will then be used to benchmark these performance aspects, as well as to define system requirements to scope future developments, such as laser properties (power, spectral, stability), cooling power, magnetic field, microwave/RF control fields, and vibrational stability. The tasks envisioned for implementing this activity include;Trade-off to decide on a material system and protocol (e.g. rephased amplified spontaneous emission, atomic frequency comb etc).Opto-mechanical design of the EBB (e.g. bulk crystal inside a cavity with interfaces for laser control fields and signal fields)Manufacturing and assemblyPerformance measurementsDefinition of system requirements for next development phase.Given the technological challenges and the large parameter space, parallel contracts maybe placed if multiple proposals of sufficient quality are received. In this case, voluntary technical exchange between the different consortia would be highly encouraged and supported by the agency (e.g. via a symposium).Proposals including an industrial partner with engineering capability in similar optical systems (e.g. optical cavities, laser interfaces, micro-optics assembly, cryogenics etc) and familiarity with space requirements would be considered a major asset.Procurement Policy: C(1) = Activity restricted to non-prime contractors (incl. SMEs). For additional information please go to this link.

Estabilishment: ESTEC
ECOS Required: No
Classified: No
Price Range: > 500 KEURO
Authorised Contact Person: Nathalie Dorval
Initiating Service: TIA-TO
IP Measure: C1
Prog. Reference: E/0534-05A - OP-Other Act. Prod.
Tender Type: Open Competition
Technology Keywords: 16-C-VI-Optical Communications / 17-C-V-Quantum Devices / 23-B-IV-Optoelectronic Active and Passive Components
Products Keywords: 2-B-1-p-Optoelectronic Devices (including opto-couplers, LED, CCDs, displays, sensors) / 2-B-1-r-Other / 2-G-1.1-c-Laser sources, modulators

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