Internship | Quantum Key Distribution: secure communication in a quantum era


Den Haag

Education type

university (wo)


Internship and graduation project

Hours a week

Fulltime – 40


Apply now


What will you be doing?

We are at the onset of a second quantum revolution in which scientists and engineers are striving to develop the next generation of quantum technologies that are capable of quantum computing, quantum networking, and quantum sensing. Quantum computers, for instance, will be able to perform computational tasks that are completely intractable for classical computers, and the race is on to reach so-called quantum supremacy, the first demonstration of this advantage. Quantum networking, on the other hand, has the aim of transmitting quantum information with high fidelity, for example, by using distributed entanglement ("spooky action at a distance” according to Einstein) to teleport qubits (quantum bits). The holy grail of quantum networking will be a quantum internet, and efforts to design such an infrastructure within Europe have recently started.

Aside from the technological blessings this new revolution will deliver, it also brings a curse: quantum computers will be able to efficiently break modern public-key cryptographic protocols (RSA, ECC, etc.). That means all the encrypted information we currently share over the internet can, if recorded now, be decrypted once a sufficiently capable quantum computer is built. While new “quantum-safe” cryptographic protocols are being developed, these are not yet known to be provably secure. An alternative solution is offered by quantum technology itself: quantum key distribution (QKD), an application of quantum networking that is part of the exciting new field of quantum cryptography.
QKD works by exchanging cryptographic keys with a provably secure protocol. Specifically, the security of these protocols is based on the physical laws of quantum mechanics. By encoding the transmitted key information as quantum states, an eavesdropper cannot intercept them without being detected. There are a variety of QKD protocols available that use different physical phenomena, and while some are already commercially available, each has distinct challenges in terms of both security and performance. As this field continues to grow, it will be important to have an accurate analysis of the pros and cons of these various protocol implementations.

During this internship you will study and create an overview of the various protocols used for QKD, focusing, for instance, on the different physical principles on which they are based. You will then continue with a more in-depth study of one of these protocols and develop an analytical model to predict its performance e.g. its secure key rate as a function of parameters such as distance. You may also choose to simulate the protocol using a quantum network simulator that is being developed by our group as part of QuTech. We expect you to deliver a white paper on the topics that you have studied and the results you obtain. We will encourage writing an academic paper should you discover a novel result.

What do we require of you?

  • You are in the last phase of your bachelor degree or doing a master's degree in mathematics, physics, computer science, or a related field.
  • You have a strong affinity or curiosity for quantum technology, as well as an interest in cryptography.
  • If you are familiar with modeling and simulation, numerical methods, programming (e.g. in Python), then this is a plus.
  • You have the ability to work independently coupled with a pro-active and goal-driven attitude.

What can you expect of your work situation?

The Department of Distributed Sensor Systems (DSS) employs about 40 people with various backgrounds from (astro)physics to mechatronics. A team within DSS collaborates with the TU Delft on QuTech’s Quantum Internet and Networked Computing (QINC) roadmap to develop the first quantum network discrete-event simulator. TNO is a multidisciplinary organization and you will also work together with people from other departments, including Cyber Security and Robustness (CSR) and potentially Quantum Technology. Quantum Technology is also working within the QINC roadmap to build a physical quantum internet demonstrator between 4 cities in the Netherlands. CSR combines quantitative methods and modeling with knowledge of telecommunications, IT and security.

What can TNO offer you?

You want to work on the precursor of your career and a work placement gives you the opportunity to experience your prospective future employer. TNO goes one step further. We are interested in more than providing that experience; you and your knowledge are essential to our innovation. Therefore, we attach great value to your personal and professional development. During your work placement with us, you will be properly supervised and given the scope to get the most out of yourself. Naturally, we provide suitable work placement compensation.

Application process

For this vacancy it is required that the AIVD issues a security clearance after conducting a security screening. Please visit for more information the AIVD website.

Has this vacancy sparked your interest?

Then please feel free to apply on this vacancy! For further questions don’t hesitate to contact us.

Contact: Chris Elenbaas
Phone number: +31 (0)6-154 97539

Note that applications via email and third party applications are not taken into consideration.


Apply now



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