The statistical fluctuations in free-space links in the turbulent atmosphere are important for the distribution of quantum signals. To that end, we first study statistics generated by the turbulent atmosphere in an entanglement-based free-space quantum key distribution (QKD) system. Using the insights gained from this analysis, we study the effect of link fluctuations on the security and key generation rate of decoy state QKD concluding that it has minimal effect in the typical operating regimes. We then investigate the novel idea of using these turbulent fluctuations to our advantage in QKD experiments. We implement a signal-to-noise ratio filter (SNRF) in our QKD system which rejects measurements during periods of low transmission efficiency, where the measured quantum bit error rate is temporarily elevated. Using this, we increase the total secret key generated by the system from 78 009 bits to 97 678 bits, representing an increase of 25.2% in the final secure key rate, generated from the same raw signals. Lastly, we present simulations of a QKD exchange with an orbiting low earth orbit satellite and show that an SNRF will be extremely useful in such a situation, allowing many more passes to extract a secret key than would otherwise be possible.
- QKD free-space