3M‘s Optical Systems Division, and nanotech partner Nanosys, are finally bringing their QDEF, color enhancement technology to LCD displays, an advance that promises a 50% increase in the color experienced by users. The technology is twenty years in the making... The launch was announced back in May and the technology is now beginning to get traction across the smartphone, advertising and TV markets. The technology could be exactly the boost that Apple needs to draw the Retina ahead of the S4 (though it is worth noting that Samsung has just released an LCD version of the S4 – the Active).

“It puts LCD on the same plane as OLED (the Samsung technology),” claims senior researcher John van der Lofske, from 3M Optical Systems Division.

Quantum Dot Enhancement Film, to give it its full name, is created by cultivating nano-sized crystals. Jeff Yurek, Product Marketing Manager at Nanosys, explains: “We use an electro-chemical process to grow crystals to between 2 and 12 nanometers, less than the size of a virus. The amazing thing about these materials is at the nano scale they have very different qualities. The size of the crystal determines a different color.” He quotes deeper reds as one stand-out example of the effect of QDEF. The technology also makes the displays more energy efficient.

Nanosys is an American success story. Founded 12 years ago, and still in an extended start-up phase, the basic technology used by the company comes with patents from luminary American research institutions like MIT and Harvard. Those patents go back to the 1990s.