Abstract

Underwater quantum key distribution (QKD) has potential applications in absolutely secure underwater communication. However, the performance of underwater QKD is limited by the optical elements, background light, and dark counts of the detector. In this paper, we propose a modified formula for the quantum bit error rate (QBER), which takes into account the effect of detector efficiency on the QBER caused by the background light. Then we calculate the QBER of the polarization encoding BB84 protocol in Jerlov-type seawater by analyzing the effect of the background light and optical components in a more realistic situation. Finally, we further analyze the final key rate and the maximum secure communication distance in three propagation modes, i.e., upward, downward, and horizontal modes. We find that secure QKD can be performed in the clearest Jerlov-type seawater at a distance of hundreds of meters, even in the worst downward propagation mode. Specifically, by optimizing the system parameters, it is possible to securely transmit information with a rate of 67 kbits/s at a distance of 100 m in the seawater channel with an attenuation coefficient of 0.03/m at night. For practical underwater QKD, the performance can also be improved by using decoy states. Our results are useful for long-distance underwater quantum communication.

© 2019 Optical Society of America

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