Quantum Dot Forum 2017 – A Review

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I'll start by saying it was my first Quantum Dot Forum, even though I have been in the QD industry for longer than the QD Forum has been in operation (2017 was it's 4th year). The people, the atmosphere, and the community of QD scientists, display executives, LED companies, and material suppliers was truly impressive over this two day event. The in-depth conversations and networking opportunity was extremely valuable, especially for a consultant looking to expand his network like myself.

Seth-Coe Sullivan (former QD Vision co-founder and CTO) kicked off the conference with a look back at the history of the industrial application of quantum dots, and how the market has evolved with the gorilla Samsung now driving QD adoption with their aggressive marketing campaign. A year ago the layperson had no idea what a quantum dot was, now I have family member's with TVs containing quantum dots; the recent growth is truly astounding. And as you can see in this photo, the people of Hong Kong now know what quantum dots are (or have at least been subject to advertisements about QD TVs)

QD down-converting displays: As the only real commercialized QD display technology, down-conversion (in film or edge optic) continues impressive growth and is expected to continue to grow for the coming decade. Often the comparison of QD-TVs to OLED, and the market analysis by Touch Display Research says that ultimately QDs will win over OLED in terms of market penetration and total sales.

On Chip: Getting QDs out of a film or glass tube and directly on top of an LED die is likely to be the next big step for QD technologies (I predict well before electroluminescent devices). The challenge is that QDs do not like oxygen, nor do they like the high temperatures and flux associated with LED technology. The team at Pacific Light Technologies along with Lumileds showed some impressive data for red QDs lasting thousands of hours in operating and accelerated testing conditions. Clearly this is something that will get the attention of lighting and display companies alike, and I expect we'll see more innovation in this area in the coming years, perhaps even the first product launch soon.

EL Devices: Certainly one of the hot topics at the forum was electroluminescent QD devices. It's clear that everyone including start-ups, TV giants, and academic labs are interested in making this a reality, but the biggest hurdle is still reliability. No questions this technology WILL be a game changer in displays... IF scientists can improve the stability into the many thousands of hours for all three colors.

A quick note on terminology: Samsung's "QLED" is not an electroluminescent display technology and has caused some confusion in the industry. It is still a down converting technology. People in the community of QDs have been using the term QLED for decades to mean an electroluminescent QD device.

Competition: If you work with QDs and haven't hear about GE's TriGain(TM) technology, well than you are in for a surprise. The team at GE has spent a lot of time developing a more conventional phosphor (think doped bulk inorganic material) with ultra narrow red emission peaks which can give very impressive gamut (for a color gamut primer I suggest Display Mate's summary). While the rumors about decay lifetime limiting application are not unfounded, fact is that GE has been very successful in getting this into customer's hands and implemented into consumer products - perhaps even the phone in your pocket.

What about non-display applications? Great question. No doubt there are a lot of folks out there interested in what QDs have to offer in applications outside of displays and lighting. For example, the team at UbiQD are hoping to put a new type of QD in the windows of the tallest sky scrapers in the world to harvest the sun's energy. Innovations in synthesis might allow us to one day make QDs in bacteria similar to the way we brew beer according to Nano Elements Source. And much like their start in biotechnology a few decades ago, QDs may see a resurgence in bioanalytical applications.

What's Next? It's clear QD technology is here, in a big way, but there is still a lot of innovation happening. I expect to see a strong push to improve the thermal and flux stability of both Cd and non-Cd QDs so that QDs can eventually be a drop in solution for phosphors. It seems green is more difficult to solve than red in this regard, and for EL devices blue is even more difficult (current lifetimes are in the 10s of hours). I can't wait to see what's in store for the coming year! I look forward to the QD Forum 2018.

Assuming the TV giants keep implementing and marketing QD technologies, and scientists continue to innovate with QDs, the future of QD technology is... well... bright.

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