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Berkeley Lab's quantum dots create better, brighter displays

State: California

Region: Far West

Agency: Dept. of Energy

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL)

Technology developed at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is bringing lifelike color and vividness to electronic devices – from tablets and smartphones to laptops and high definition (HD) televisions – while controlling power consumption and costs.

Widespread international use of electronic devices has increased the demand for energy to power them. More energy efficient displays, with uncompromised color accuracy and brightness, are needed.

Scientists at LBNL discovered that when they shined a high-energy light on tiny spherical crystals, called quantum dots, the crystals would convert the light to a different color, depending on the size of the crystal. The scientists learned to manipulate the quantum dots to emit extremely pure forms of red, green and blue (RGB) light—the colors needed to produce the pixels on our digital displays.

LBNL’s quantum dot technology portfolio was licensed by startup Nanosys, Inc. for use in electronic displays. Nanosys then partnered with LG Innotek and 3M to develop a way to improve the appearance of colors on LCD (liquid crystal display) screens.

Quantum Dot Enhancement Film™ (QDEF), an engineered sheet containing quantum dots, provides a broader color spectrum, granting electronic displays enhanced luminosity, richer hues and alluring visuals. Moreover, the innovation slashed power consumption by 20% compared with the previous standard for LCD screens. 

In 2013, Nanosys released its first commercial product with a quantum dot display, an Amazon Kindle tablet. A decade later, the company achieved a monumental milestone — unveiling its 1,000th unique quantum dot product. Companies whose products feature the technology include Sony, Samsung, LG, VIZIO, Acer, ASUS and Phillips.  

Looking ahead, Nanosys's leaders expect the technology to continue expanding in the LCD TV market. Billions of dollars have been invested in LCD production facilities, and adding the QDEF technology is a low-cost opportunity for those manufacturers to substantially improve the displays on their products.  

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