Woodward, R.I., Lo, Y.S., Pittaluga, M. et al. Gigahertz measurement-device-independent quantum key distribution using directly modulated lasers. npj Quantum Inf 7, 58 (2021). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41534-021-00394-2
Measurement-device-independent quantum key distribution (MDI-QKD) is a technique for quantum-secured communication that eliminates all detector side-channels, although is currently limited by implementation complexity and low secure key rates. Here, we introduce a simple and compact MDI-QKD system design at gigahertz clock rates with enhanced resilience to laser fluctuations—thus enabling free-running semiconductor laser sources to be employed without spectral or phase feedback. This is achieved using direct laser modulation, carefully exploiting gain-switching and injection-locking laser dynamics to encode phase-modulated time-bin bits. Our design enables secure key rates that improve upon the state of the art by an order of magnitude, up to 8 bps at 54 dB channel loss and 2 kbps in the finite-size regime for 30 dB channel loss. This greatly simplified MDI-QKD system design and proof-of-principle demonstration shows that MDI-QKD is a practical, high-performance solution for future quantum communication networks.