SignificanceThe spatial structure of photons provides access to a very large state space. It enables the encoding of more information per photon, useful for (quantum) communication with large alphabets and fundamental studies of high-dimensional entanglement. However, the question of the distribution of such photons has not been settled yet, as they are significantly influenced by atmospheric turbulence in free-space transmissions. In the present paper we show that it is possible to distribute quantum entanglement of spatially structured photons over a free-space intracity link. We demonstrate the access to four orthogonal quantum channels in which entanglement can be distributed over large distances. Furthermore, already available technology could provide access to even larger quantum state spaces. Photons with a twisted phase front can carry a discrete, in principle, unbounded amount of orbital angular momentum (OAM). The large state space allows for complex types of entanglement, interesting both for quantum communication and for fundamental tests of quantum theory. However, the distribution of such entangled states over large distances was thought to be infeasible due to influence of atmospheric turbulence, indicating a serious limitation on their usefulness. Here we show that it is possible to distribute quantum entanglement encoded in OAM over a turbulent intracity link of 3 km. We confirm quantum entanglement of the first two higher-order levels (with OAM=[IMG]f1.gif" ALT="Formula" BORDER="0"> 1[IMG]f2.gif" ALT="Formula" BORDER="0"> and [IMG]f1.gif" ALT="Formula" BORDER="0"> 2[IMG]f2.gif" ALT="Formula" BORDER="0">). They correspond to four additional quantum channels orthogonal to all that have been used in long-distance quantum experiments so far. Therefore, a promising application would be quantum communication with a large alphabet. We also demonstrate that our link allows access to up to 11 quantum channels of OAM. The restrictive factors toward higher numbers are technical limitations that can be circumvented with readily available technologies.
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