The Quantum Communication and Quantum Information research group of the National Institute of Optics (INO-CNR) is based at INO headquarter of Arcetri (Florence, Italy). Our research activity is pursued in close cooperation with the SPOC centre of excellence (Silicon Photonics for Optical Communication),based at DTU Fotonik, in Denmark. Additional laboratories are located in the University of Florence (Sesto Fiorentino) and the Science Park Area of Basovizza (Trieste).

At present, our research is mainly focused on quantum optics and quantum key distribution (QKD). Conversely to standard cryptography, QKD has the unmatched benefit of not being affected by the future advances in both classical and quantum computing, and thus it is today the sole technology able to guarantee a trusted security in authentication procedures and sensitive data handling. For this reason, in the upcoming digital era of the Internet of Things, the interest in quantum cryptography and quantum communication has kept growing, involving both the academic community as well as private companies and government institutions.

In particular, our research work is focused on addressing the practical challenges that naturally arise, when attempting the full-integration of novel quantum communication technologies in the already existing networks and infrastructures for standard optical communication. Indeed, the current limitations on the bit rate and the transmission distance, as well as the high costs of practical systems, still prevent the novel quantum technologies to be widely adopted outside research labs. Therefore, testing novel quantum cryptographic protocols and introducing alternative solutions for practical quantum communication, are the central points of our research work.

Our recent achievements include the first Italian field trial of a QKD setup, performed over an installed fiber-optics link in the Florence metropolitan area, paving the way towards the future Italian Quantum Backbone. Another field trial of complete QKD protocol was performed in Trieste, during a public demonstration of quantum technology at the closing ceremony of the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF 2020), by setting up two portable stations for quantum optics hardware and real-time post-processing of data.Our future perspectives include more field trials of quantum communication, to be performed in both undersea and free-space links, as well as special multicore-fiber installed links.During these tests in-field, the stability of the overall experimental apparatus is pursued over several hours, by implementing servo-locking systems for automatic stabilization of the transmitting and receiving setups. The coexistence of quantum and classical communication over the same link is also investigated during our research,also by comparing the properties of different detection systems that are tested at the receiver. Furthermore, our work is focused on boosting the overall performances of quantum communication protocols, by exploiting large-alphabet information encoding on high-dimensional quantum states, through the manipulation of multiple degrees of freedom of light.Finally, our research group is collaborating with the new CNR spin-off company on quantum communication, QTI (Quantum Telecommunications Italy), with the aim to design and produce quantum communications architectures and for private companies, government apparatuses, and research institutions.