If you have an LED flashlight, you know that color is a lingering problem for the industry.
LEDs tend to give off a cold, clinical light that reminds many of ET's finger or a body probe wielded by a character from a Whitley Streiber novel. QD Vision, created by researchers at MIT, says it can mitigate that problem by placing quantum dots – small nanoparticles that glow – in front of an LED light source. With the quantum dots, the light shifts from being bluish and cold to warm, sort of like the light that emanates from incandescent bulbs.
The world will be able to judge for itself soon. The company has received $10 million more from its investors, bringing the total raised to $30 million, and says it will move into commercial production in January. The quantum dots will be included in an LED fixture coming from Nexxus Lighting in January. LED lighting is expected to grow rapidly in the next few years: The bulbs are coming down in price rapidly and countries like Australia have already passed laws to phase out incandescents.
QD Vision also hopes to integrate its technology into televisions and computer displays. By adding quantum dots to LEDs in displays and TVs, manufacturers will be able to reduce the number of LEDs they put into a TV or display, thereby reducing the cost and power consumption of the TV. (The dots, however, will add cost to the plain light bulbs. It's an extra component, after all.)
Within four to five years, QD Vision hopes to be able to make screens that rely on quantum dots entirely. These thinner screens could rival the thin screens that proponents of Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs) have promised for years. OLEDs are currently in production, but OLED screens are small. Most manufacturers only use OLEDs on things like cell phones. Sony has an OLED TV, but the screen measures only 11 inches across, and Sony has been stuck at that level since 2007. Some companies such as Kateeva have created equipment that could make it easier to produce large OLEDS, but manufacturers have only recently begun to look at Kateeva's equipment.
Quantum dots, by the way, were one of the early-touted technologies for the nanotech revolution, which kicked off in the early part of the decade but has taken longer than some expected. Carbon and silicon nanotubes, two of the other early stars of nanotech, are being incorporated into desalination membranes and waste-heat capture devices.
So maybe the nanotech revolution is coming. It's just going to be a decade late.