Liquid crystal displays (LCDs) enabled by quantum dots have been promising gadgets with much richer colors and better energy efficiency for years now. Nanosys, the California-based quantum dot producer, has been promoting this capability for over three years.
There seemed to be a real chance of seeing quantum dot-enabled LCDs on the market last year when Nanosys agreed with the Optical Systems Division of 3M Company to supply its Quantum Dot Enhancement Film (QDEF) for the production of a new generation of LCDs capable of displaying 50 percent more color.
Just two weeks ago, while reporting on another quantum dot enhancement to LCDs, I wondered what happened to the Nanosys/3M project. Part of my curiosity was due to the fact that there was some hint that we should have heard something within the past year about their commercial availability. At the time of the Nanosys/3M announcement last year, Jason Hartlove, CEO of Nanosys said that major LCD manufacturers are now testing the film, and a 17-inch notebook incorporating the technology should be on shelves within six months.
Now we get an update from 3M on the “3M QDEF solution” explaining that it will be available to customers (LCD manufacturers) for design cycles by the late second quarter this year (end of June). How long it takes for manufacturers to go from design cycles to products on the shelves is not made clear in the announcement. But I imagine, based on the Hartlove’s announcement from last year, that it could take anywhere from six months to never, depending on how happy manufacturers are with their evaluation of the material.
I’m not sure what’s happening here. It could be that an over zealous supplier of quantum dots over stated where the commercial process was and the big corporate conglomerate that actually knew the supply chain thought they better come in one year later and straighten out the time line. I hope that’s the case. Otherwise we might be in one of those cycles where each year we hear that the product is just six months away from our shelves for the next five years. That would would be especially disappointing because this sounds like it would make for some excellent LCDs.
Editor's Note: After the publication of this piece, it came to my attention that quantum dots supplied by Massachusetts-based QD Vision Inc. are now available in some Sony LCD displays. While these devices were promised at the CES in January to be available by the Spring of this year, I had not heard any official announcement of their availability. Nonetheless Sony does have a product that appears to be a quantum dot-enabled LCD display for sale on its website.It would seem Sony's "crystal" display did turn out to be a quantum-dot enabled LCD display.
Dexter Johnson is a contributing editor at IEEE Spectrum, with a focus on nanotechnology.