Upcoming HDTV displays like the one in this photo (top) could offer an even more brilliant image thanks to Quantum Dots. Nanosys actually grows the tiny crystals responsible for the rich colors and 3M then imbrues a transparent sheet with them. The dots block some of the blue light spectrum while helping to pump up the reds and greens.
Display experts, Displaymate, say QDs will revolutionize LCD displays over the next five years, bringing them on a par with the OLED screens favored by Apple’s main competitor.
Quantum Dot is an enhancement film layer that improves the color performance of LCD screens, like the Retina. It can also be used to enhance the color performance of TVs. Quantum Dot technology has the advantage of being able to work with existing display production lines – it’s a drop-in technology with no significant capital investment required.
What’s doubly interesting is that there are already quantum dot technologies on the market. I wrote back in the summer that inventors Nanosys and fabricator 3M were ready to roll with quantum dot enhancement film (QDEF).
DisplayMate: 2014 Innovative Displays and Display Technologies Smartphones, Tablets, TVs, and Wearable Displays
In 2014 the most significant development for high-end LCDs will be the increased adoption of Quantum Dots by many more manufacturers, which will improve the Color Gamut, Color Accuracy, display power efficiency, brightness and/or the running time on battery for mobile displays.
"Apple has recently given up the lead in displays -- now Amazon, Google, LG, and Samsung are launching products with the best and most innovative displays."
He cited the example of an emerging LCD technology called Quantum Dots that Amazon has tapped for the Kindle Fire HDX 7 (now $199 at Amazon).
"Quantum Dots are going to revolutionize and reenergize LCDs for the next 5+ years," he wrote. "While they have been under development for many years, in 2013 they made it out of the labs and into consumer products: in some models of Sony Bravia TVs...and in the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7, with Quantum Dots from Nanosys," he said.
Quantum Dot displays produce highly saturated primary colors that are similar to those produced by OLED displays, according to Soneira.
Apple has filed for three new patents, according to applications published by the USPTO (via AppleInsider) today. The applications all relate to the use of quantum dot-enhanced displays, which provide a number of advantages to electronic device screens, including richer and more vibrant colors, better viewing angles and an overall better experience vs. standard LCD gadget screens.
"Quantum Dots are going to revolutionize and reenergize LCDs for the next 5+ years," Dr. Ray Soneira of DisplayMate
Quantum Dots provide an amazing super high technology performance enhancement for LCDs through a unique application of Quantum Physics. By incorporating them within the Backlight the LCDs then produce highly saturated primary colors that are similar to those produced by OLED displays, plus they also improve the brightness and power efficiency at the same time. Instead of using existing White LEDs (which have yellow phosphors) that produce a broad light spectrum that makes it hard to efficiently produce saturated colors, Quantum Dots directly convert the light from Blue LEDs into highly saturated narrow band primary colors for LCDs. And the icing on the cake is that their colors are precisely tunable during manufacture, which means they can produce the exact colors needed for high image and picture color accuracy. This eliminates the lopsided Color Gamuts and White Point errors that are present in most existing displays.
Some of my fellow analysts have been bemoaning a lack of TV, tablet, and cell-phone innovations at CES 2014. Well, either I have lower standards than my colleagues or a keener eye because I saw quite a few things that surprised, delighted, and horrified me. Here are some of them.
3M’s Quantum Dot Enhancement Film (QDEF) using quantum dots from partner Nanosys is now in a high-volume shipping product. 3M was coy about identifying the customer, but partner Nanosys (which supplies the quantum dots used by 3M) didn’t hesitate. QDEF is being used in Kindle Fire HDX 7.0 and 8.9 inch tablets. The 8.9-inch has a 2560×1600-pixel display withg 339 pixels per inch (ppi), and uses QDEF to increase the color gamut from 60% to 72% NTSC. This is a noticeable although not extreme improvement, but Amazon asked 3M and Nanosys to optimize the system to significantly improve battery life, even if that meant only a modest improvement in gamut. They did. Battery life is substantially improved.
Red – perhaps the most difficult color to reproduce accurately in any flat-screen TV – really looks like red when viewed with a QD backlight. And it’s possible to show many subtle shades of red with this technology.
All you need is a QD film or emitter with arrays of red and green dots, plus a backlight made up of blue LEDs. The blue passes through, while the blue photons “tickle” the red and green dots, causing them to emit their respective colors. It’s also possible to build a direct-illumination display out of quantum dots that would rival OLED TVs.
Touch Display Research Forecasts Quantum Dot Display and Lighting Component Market to Reach $9.6 Billion by 2023
“Quantum dot could improve Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) dramatically in terms of color gamut, color accuracy and reducing power consumption. This is one of the biggest breakthrough technologies for LCD in recent several years. Now quantum dot LCD is challenging AMOLED,” said Dr. Jennifer Colegrove, president and analyst of Touch Display Research Inc. “We forecast quantum dot components will have a rapid penetration into LCDs from 2014 to 2023.”
At CES 2014 Hisense, the worlds 3rd largest TV manufacturer, showed off an 85" 4K TV with a wide color gamut courtesy of Quantum Dot technology from Nanosys.
Soneira also sees Amazon and Jeff Bezos seizing the display high ground as the Fire HDX 7 is the first tablet to ship with Quantum Dot (QD) technology. Soneira went so far as to say “…Jeff Bezos could be the new Steve Jobs.”
QD film is made from crystals supplied by Nanosys, then delivered to 3M and made into a production grade film. It’s inserted in the backplane stack, and used instead of a traditional film diffuser according to Soneira, who spoke with us in a recent phone interview. He told us “…there is still plenty of optics and homework to get the QD technology right, but the Amazon mini tablet did an excellent job according to our quantitative test results.”
DisplayMate: Kindle Fire HDX 7 incredibly innovative, first tablet display to use super high tech quantum dots
DisplayMate analyst Ray Soneira’s just posted an in-depth review of the latest crop of 7″ tablets. He found that Amazon’s new Kindle Fire HDX 7″ uses an innovative new display technology called quantum dots to achieve great color and brightness:
While IGZO has been getting most of the attention, a dark horse called quantum dots has emerged as a new and truly revolutionary super high-tech advancement for LCD displays – and it is showing up for the first time in the Kindle Fire HDX 7, which we test here.
Quantum dots are almost magical because they use quantum physics to produce highly saturated primary colors for LCDs that are similar to those produced by OLED displays. They not only significantly increase the size of the color gamut by 40-50 percent but also improve the power efficiency by an additional 15-20 percent. Instead of using White LEDs (which have yellow phosphors) that produce a broad light spectrum that makes it hard to efficiently produce saturated colors, Quantum dots directly convert the light from blue LEDs into highly saturated primary colors for LCDs. You can see the remarkable difference in their light spectra in Figure 4. Quantum dots are going to revolutionize LCDs for the next 5+ years. To learn more about quantum dots read this from Nanosys. Congratulations to Amazon for leading the way and being the first to incorporate this revolutionary new display technology in Tablets! It will be interesting to see how rapidly other manufacturers adopt quantum dots. See Figure 1 and Figure 2 and the Colors and Intensities section for details.
The Kindle Fire HDX 7 is Amazon’s third-generation LCD tablet, and their displays have been improving by leaps and bounds since we first tested them back in 2011. Their full-size flagship Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is the best performing tablet display that we have ever tested, due in part to using the highest performance LCDs with low temperature poly silicon LTPS. But the mini Kindle Fire HDX 7 that we test here is also incredibly innovative because it is the first tablet display to use super high technology quantum dots, which produce highly saturated primary colors for LCDs that are similar to those produced by OLED displays. They not only significantly increase the color gamut to 100 percent but also improve the power efficiency at the same time. It’s a very impressive display with very impressive technology. More on these issues below.
The Kindle, whose display not only uses LTPS, but also an esoteric new material called quantum dots. LCD making is a complex process involving numerous steps, but one of the simpler ones is that every LCD requires a “backlight” to illuminate the display and that light is comprised of a series of LEDs. With quantum dots, you can use blue LEDs and color them to make rich, saturated colors. A company called Nanosys is at the forefront of this technology, and Sony is using it in some of their latest TVs. The colors are so good, quantum dots will likely find their way into most LCDs over the next 5 years, Soneira believes.
A decade after helping make flat-screen TVs the norm in living rooms, 3M Co. plans to add some color. It's more than just a dash of brightness. 3M's new quantum dot enhancement film -- or QDEF -- is engineered to make the reds, greens and blues on any flat screen deeper and richer.
It also is designed to make money again for 3M. Optical film sales to electronics manufacturers once generated 3M's highest profit margins.
But in recent years, 3M has seen industrial sales of its optical film products top out, as the recession hit and fewer people were buying new screens for their homes.
When 3M CEO Inge Thulin highlighted some of the company's new "disruptive technologies" in a conference call last week, he noted that the
3M senior physics research specialist David Lamb demonstrates how quantom dot enhancement film improves color saturation in the reds and greens of a flat-screen TV.
Display industry supply chain responds to demand for quantum dot LCD displays, Osram announces new line of blue LEDs for quantum dot displays. The blue LED is designed for use with quantum dot technology that is just coming to market in the display area. Quantum dots are excited by photons much like conventional phosphor, but the dots have a much narrower emission spectrum.
In a display application, the display manufacturer embeds red, green, and blue (RGB) quantum dots on a thin sheet of material that is placed between the light guide and the LCD. The dots are patterned to exactly match the LCD's RGB filters. Therefore, only red light is shone though red filters and the same scenario holds true for green and blue filters. The technology results in a display with richer colors and improved color gamut relative to LCDs backlit with white light.
The blue Osram LED would excite the quantum dots in a display application. Blue is chosen because LED manufacturers can deliver the best quantum efficiency with that color. Osram says that the blue MicroSideled 3806 delivers 55% external quantum efficiency.
Osram said that the blue LED and quantum dot technology will enable more efficient displays when the power consumption is considered at the system level. The quantum dots make more efficient use of the emitted photons because you don't have the situation, as with white light, where much of the spectral energy of the backlight is wasted when passing through the color filters. Osram said the advantage is 10–15% in energy consumption and 33% better coverage of the color space.
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.
The Society for Information Display (SID) Display Week Conference held May 20-24 is the display industry's top annual gathering and exhibition. It's not a consumer product show but rather where manufacturers show off their latest and greatest display technology that will make their way into the upcoming generations of consumer products in the near future. I spent most of my time in private meetings rather than cruising the show floor, but here are a number of general interest display products that caught my attention.
Quantum Dots: A revolutionary new technology that efficiently increases the color saturation and color gamut of LCDs by up to 50 percent for Smartphones, Tablets, HDTVs, and large monitors. Quantum Dots bring LCDs up to parity with OLEDs for color gamut and saturation. They use quantum physics to efficiently translate the color spectrum of the LED backlights for LCDs into precise and narrow red, green, and blue spectra for the LCD panel. This not only efficiently increases the brightness and power efficiency of the display but the narrow spectra should allow the screen's overall reflectance to be reduced. I saw several display prototypes, including some that should be in production in the near future. The leading companies are Nanosys (working with 3M) and QD Vision (already in some Sony TVs). Be on the lookout for them...
Quantum dots have been promoted as a technology that is poised to transform the LCD (liquid-crystal display) market for years now. This promise looked to be taking shape when California-based Nanosys Inc. announced last year that it had worked out a deal with the Optical Systems Division of 3M Company to produce an LCD capable of displaying 50 percent more color. The Nanosys/3M pairing was intended to improve the color and performance efficiency of LCD displays by using the quantum dots as an improved back light.
In the current display market landscape, LCDs are both inefficient and don’t produce the vibrant colors of organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs). However, LCDs are far cheaper to produce in large screen sizes, and consumers often choose the right price over the right color. Quantum dots were supposed to give us the best of both worlds.
One area where LCDs have thus far failed to match OLEDs is color performance. Conventional LCDs face a ceiling in color performance, at best reaching the sRGB color gamut, or about 70% of OLED’s capability, because of the white LED light source used in most LCD backlights. While LCD makers have experimented with other wide-gamut backlight technologies, such as discrete RGB LED and CCFL, all have proven too costly, too power hungry, or too bulky to be viable. For some time, it seemed that high brightness, portability, and wide-gamut color performance simply could not be had in the same LCD package at the same time.
That was until a new class of phosphor material called quantum dots became available to LCD makers. First developed in the 1980s at Bell Labs, quantum dots have the unique ability to efficiently emit light at a single spectral peak with narrow line width, creating highly saturated colors. In addition, the emission wavelength can be tuned continuously based on the size of the quantum dots. This capability enables display designers to custom engineer a spectrum of light to maximize both the efficiency and color performance of their display.
Nanosys said today it has raised $15 million in a sixth round of funding to expand its manufacturing of materials that enable displays with vivid colors. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based maker of nanotechnology materials — or materials that have unique properties at a scale of a billionth of a meter — will use the investment to expand its manufacturing capacity tenfold. The company makes Quantum Dot Enhancement Film (QDEF), which improves the vividness of color and power efficiency of liquid crystal displays, which are used in everything from tablets to big-screen TVs.