Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Mechanical Engineering

Major Professor

Zhili Zhang

Committee Members

Nicholas A. Peters, Trevor M. Moeller, Zhenbo Wang, David A. Hooper


Quantum communications tap into the potential of quantum mechanics to go beyond the limitations of classical communications. Currently, the greatest challenge facing quantum networks is the limited transmission range of encoded quantum information. Space-based quantum networks offer a means to overcome this limitation, however the performance of such a network operating in harsh conditions is unknown. This dissertation analyzes the capabilities of a space-based quantum network operating in a nuclear disturbed environment. First, performance during normal operating conditions is presented using Gaussian beam modeling and atmospheric modeling to establish a baseline to compare against a perturbed environment. Then, the DEfense Land Fallout Interpretive Code software and computational fluid dynamics study the effect of a nuclear explosion on the surrounding environment. Finally, these sources of noise are combined to estimate the degradation of quantum states being transmitted through a nuclear disturbed environment. It is found that the effects of a nuclear environment on a quantum network is a function of the height of blast, the explosive yield, and the network design. Debris lofted into the atmosphere during a surface blast dissipate after a couple of hours, yet the concentration is initially high and results in heavy signal loss. The nuclear fireball produced additional background light interference that scatters into the receiver's detector from tens of seconds to a couple of minutes, causing excessive noise in the detector. All these effects are likely to impede a quantum network’s ability to distribute quantum information between a ground station and low Earth orbit satellite for approximately one transmission period. Afterwards, by the next satellite pass, normal operation is expected to resume. These results provide the operational capabilities of space-based optical quantum networks following a nuclear explosion. The model can be expanded to model satellite-based quantum networks in other harsh atmospheric environments.


Final submission.

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