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Quantum dots explained: How this nanotechnology could give OLED TVs a run for the money

Jon L. Jacobi | Sept. 14, 2015
Quantum dot technology is helping LED LCD TVs deliver richer, broader color spectrums. Almost as rich as OLED TVs.

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Credit: Samsung

Case in point: the misleading SUHD moniker Samsung sticks on its high-end models. You might think SUHD is a new resolution higher than UHD. It’s not, it’s just a marketing term for the addition of quantum dot filtering and some tweaking. I say just, but Samsung’s SUHD models deliver noticeably better color reproduction compared to its less-expensive TVs. The same is true of Sony’s Triluminos brand and the Color IQ label (belonging to QD Vision) that’s behind several quantum-dot efforts. TVs that use quantum dots come very to close to OLED on every score except black. Quantum dot technology works.

Not environmentally friendly, for now

Alas, one reason that quantum dots have been largely ignored to date (they’re been around for decades) is that they’re largely produced from cadmium—a somewhat toxic element that’s on the hit list of just about every environmental agency you’d care to name. The European Union’s RoHS (Restriction of the use of certain Hazardous Substances)severely limits the use of cadmium, with an exemption for light-producing products (that restriction is currently under review).

If a group of researchers at Oregon State University are correct, the way around this problem is to use the less-toxic copper indium diselenide, which they say they’ve used to economically produce quantum dots. There’s also a company called Nanoco touting CF (cadmium-free) quantum dots. So the cadmium problem could be short lived.

Uses for quantum dots beyond TVs

Quantum dots have applications beyond TVs, including deployments in computer monitors. After all, the most significant difference between a computer display and a TV is the absence of a TV tuner. And for anyone who uses a computer to edit photographs or to publish color documents, such as print magazines, color gamut is key. Philips just announced a quantum dot 27-inch display that it says delivers 99 percent of the Adobe RGB color space. The average flat-panelcomputer display doesn’t come anywhere near that.

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New solar cell technology

Scientists from the Berkeley Lab and University of Illinois have used quantum dots to fabricate photovoltaic cells that are up to 30 times more efficient than today’s technology can deliver. Basically, if I read it correctly, light is gathered and concentrated, then steered to a quantum dot which focuses it directly into the solar cell. You can find the research here.

There’s even talk of using the technology to turn ordinary windows into solar panels.

Time to buy? It depends

So should you be looking for quantum dots in your next LED/LCD TV? Yes, if you have money, but not UHD-OLED kind of money. Those of us in the working class should stick with the older 1080p TV for a year or two, or until quantum dots are pervasive, OLED has finally come down in price, or some other whiz-bang solution has rendered both technologies moot.


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