Rumpelstiltskin had the admirable ability to convert low-cost straw into valuable gold. Today, display manufacturers are starting to reap the benefits of their own photonic alchemy, converting the light from cheap sources into the precise wavelengths needed for more efficient displays that can show sharper colors.
This magic is accomplished using what are known as quantum dots. These are semiconductor nanocrystals that exhibit a range of unusual electrical and optical properties, but for decades they were largely confined to research laboratories. Now, quantum dots are being used in mass-produced displays for the consumer market, including such items as Sony flat-screen televisions and Amazon.com’s Kindle Fire HDX e-reader. And the field is still rapidly growing and evolving. At the Display Week 2014 conference of the Society for Information Display this past June in San Diego, quantum dots were a hot topic, both in the exhibit hall and in presented papers; the symposium schedule included three separate sessions dedicated to the subject.