Nanosys: New Quantum Dot 4K Ultra HDTV Flavors On The Way
One of the hottest announcements at CES 2017 last January was Samsung’s unveiling of its new QLED 4K Ultra HD LED LCD TV series using the latest advancements in quantum dot technology.
Samsung has a number of investments in the quantum dot field, not the least of which is its equity stake in Silicon Valley-based Nanosys Technology. Nanosys worked closely with Samsung engineers on developing the new Q Series sets, which deliver new levels of brightness, color and viewing angles.
Beyond Samsung, Nanosys is working with other television manufacturers and brands as well.
At CES, Nanosys announced its involvement in 25 products across a host of brands including: TCL (X1, X2, X3 series), Hisense (H10D, MU9700), Sharp (P9500), LeEco (u85, 65 & 55), Samsung (Q series), Acer (Predator HDR monitor), ASUS (ROG HDR monitor), and others.
Meanwhile, the company also discussed next-generation quantum dot solutions, and even demonstrated a forthcoming quantum dot color filter replacement technology for the first time. Nanosys calls this color-filter approach “Photo-Emissive” quantum dots, and it’s poised to revolutionize future generations of LED LCD TVs by allowing existing quantum dot tech “to effectively double the efficiency of an LCD, bringing better benefits to not only LED LCD TVs but to OLED, WOLED or microLED displays as well,” the company said.
As reported here earlier, Nanosys also continues to work on its Hyperion quantum dot technology, which will help deliver displays covering better than 90 percent of the BT. 2020 color space, which has thus far been unattainable in consumer products.
Read more on Nanosys quantum dot technology advancements after the jump:
Jeff Yurek, director of marketing and investor relations for Nanosys Technology, said Nanosys is at work on several advances in quantum dot technology at the same time.
Samsung’s new QLED or “Q Series” quantum dot 4K Ultra HD LED LCD TVs coming this year will carry a wide range of performance benefits including brighter pictures and wider viewing angles, although the viewing angle improvements were developed by Samsung in areas that don’t include quantum dots. Briefly, Yurek said what Samsung has done is to make significant improvements to the overall device and pixel structure, which generates great improvements in off-axis viewing.
The new Q Series models will also use edge-lit panels, dropping the full-array backlighting that has been used in flagship Samsung series models for the past several years. Yurek said that from Nanosys’ perspective, “we’re totally agnostic about edge vs direct [LED lighting] since our film works really well in either implementation. We do not see a notable brightness or efficiency difference between either approach. There’s no fundamental performance difference in terms of brightness” from the quantum dots alone.
In the quantum dot area, the Q Series sets are said to use a new metallic substance that offers a perfectly round dot, but Yurek was not at liberty to discuss the chemical formulation or its implementation by the company’s largest customer.
However, Yurek said Nanosys is developing and implementing three different advances in quantum dot technology, which will each be available in the market offering different levels of performance.
“LCDs will be around for a very long time because they have tremendous capacity and very low cost,” Yurek said. “Quantum dots will only extend the relevance of LCD by improving their performance. Emissive displays [including OLED sets] on the other hand will take much longer to enter the mainstream because a lot of manufacturing investment is required.”
According to Yurek, the previously mentioned Photo-Emissive quantum dot technology will move beyond the quantum dot-coated film layer used in current implementations and will be used like color filters today. This is expected to be coming in the next 3-5 years, Yurek said, “but we could see the first Photo Emissive QD products start shipping as early as next year.”
“We call this Photo Emissive Quantum Dot because these displays will be emissive in that you are looking directly at the emitter layer (just like an OLED). We call it photo because, unlike other emissive displays, the pixels are being pumped photopically instead of electrically,” Yurek said.
It will enable the use of quantum dots with display technologies beyond LCDs, like OLED displays that use color filters.
“Most people will end up calling this a “filter” for expediency but it’s not really a filter, it’s an active conversion layer,” Yurek explained. “Filters are wasteful by design — they basically throw away light that you don’t want.
“For example, if you want to make red light in today’s filter-based displays like LCDs and White OLED TVs, you must filter the red out of a white backlight that contains all colors. The red subpixel in this case only allows red light to pass through so you get a red at the front of the display. The problem is that you are throwing away 2/3 of the light — all the blue and green that you spent energy making in the first place.
“By replacing the color filters with an active quantum dot converting layer you actually make the red light on the spot,” Yurek continued. “The red subpixel in this case can take all the available blue photons in the backlight and turn them into red or green or simply allow blue to pass through. This is a much more efficient way to design a display and we think it could improve efficiency/brightness by 2-3x.”
Yurek said other interesting benefits of this technique include: wider viewing angles, since the emitter is on the front (just like a mobile RGB OLED); better color since color filters have never been perfect (they always have some leakage of other colors), and better black levels (because the eye is less sensitive to blue backlight bleed than white).
To develop the Photo Emissive Quantum Dot technology (see diagram at top) several “super difficult problems” needed to be solved, Yurek said. This included the need to get quantum dots to work with standard photolithography techniques that are used today to make color filters. This means they needed to be compatible with new materials, temperature ranges, etc. Nanosys also needed to make the quantum dot “air processable” so that the filters can be created in open air and stored for days before they are sealed into a final display.
“Nobody is putting their color filter factory under a vaccum,” Yurek quipped. “For other architectures like microLED, OLED or W-OLED it’s basically the same idea. We don’t care where the photons come from, the quantum dots can efficiently shift them over to the right red or green as needed.”
Nanosys is also moving rapidly toward market introduction of its Hyperion quantum dot technology, which Yurek said he expects to start showing up in devices later in the year or two.
Hyperion is a solution that will help quantum dot displays achieve a large percentage of the B.T. 2020 color space, with a solution that uses minimal amounts of toxic cadmium. That’s because the blue and the green primaries for B.T. 2020 are very close together, requiring a narrower green. Hyperion is a hybrid system, which is almost a cadmium-free material. Hyperion Quantum Dots mix cadmium-free red and cadmium-based green quantum dots into a single film.
Hyperion film meets the European Union’s Restriction on Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive without having to use an exemption, since the overall system is expected to have less than 100ppm (less than a microgram) of cadmium, which is the toxicity point.
Meanwhile, the company continues to develop for more distant introduction Electro-Emissive Quantum dot technology as the future of direct emissive displays. The technology will will enable printed flexible displays using low-cost materials.
By Greg Tarr
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