Quantum cryptographic key distribution (QKD) uses extremely faint light pulses to carry quantum information between two parties (Alice and Bob), allowing them to generate a shared, secret cryptographic key. Autocompensating QKD systems automatically and passively compensate for uncontrolled time dependent variations of the optical fiber properties by coding the information as a differential phase between orthogonally-polarized components of a light pulse sent on a round trip through the fiber, reflected at mid-course using a Faraday mirror. We have built a prototype system based on standard telecom technology that achieves a privacy-amplified bit generation rate of ~1000 bits/s over a 10-km optical fiber link. Quantum cryptography is an example of an application that, by using quantum states of individual particles to represent information, accomplishes a practical task that is impossible using classical means.
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