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The Strategic Potential of Quantum Dots for the TV Display Industry

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NanoMarkets believes that quantum dots have developed to the point where they can be a useful tool in the constant struggle of television display makers to stand out in the marketplace. Although …

NanoMarkets believes that quantum dots have developed to the point where they can be a useful tool in the constant struggle of television display makers to stand out in the marketplace. Although barely out of the R&D phase, quantum dots (QDs) do offer some compelling reasons for adoption in a market that sometimes seems to be very good at offering new technologies and not so good at making them succeed.

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  • 1. The Strategic Potential of Quantum Dots for the TV Display Industry NanoMarkets believes that quantum dots have developed to the point where they can be a useful tool in the constant struggle of television display makers to stand out in the marketplace. Although barely out of the R&D phase, quantum dots (QDs) do offer some compelling reasons for adoption in a market that sometimes seems to be very good at offering new technologies and not so good at making them succeed. Accurate Colors: Display manufacturers have always assumed that producing better color is a way to sell more TVs. By carefully controlling the size distribution of QDs in their formulations, manufacturers can create an array of pure colors throughout the spectrum of visible light. Controlling the spacing of QD particles is another way to tune the color. In a display application, the display manufacturer typically embeds red, green, and blue (RGB) QDs on a thin sheet of material that is placed between the light guide and the LCD. The dots are patterned to exactly match the LCD's RGB filters. As a result, only red light is shown through red filters, and the same scenario holds true for the green and blue filters. This QD-enhanced LCD technology results in a display with richer colors and improved color gamut in comparison to those of traditional LCDs displays. Cost: Beyond picture quality, QD-enhanced TVs can provide customers with a very strong value proposition. OLED TVs have promised similar quality, but have yet to be brought to market at anything close to an affordable price. The primary reason that QD TVs can offer a reasonable value is the ability to work within the framework of existing LCD fabrication processes. This is a serious threat to OLED TVs, which require expensive fabrication facilities and don’t provide any better performance. The processes used to manufacture QDs can be quite reasonably priced when put into volume production. Areas of Concern – Performance and Toxicity Despite the advantages of QDs for large displays, two of the leading OEMs, Samsung and LG, are heavily invested in OLED technology. They may have some valid reasons for their hesitance to embrace QD technology. Issues with quantum efficiency and lifetime can make OLEDs look like a better option. QD manufacturers need to offer high levels of quantum efficiency and demonstrate long-term performance in order to address these concerns. There is another issue. The highest performing quantum dots are based on cadmium-containing semiconductors. Sony takes pains to explain that QD-enhanced TVs are safe for the consumer. Still, there are concerns regarding recycling and disposal of products containing toxic substances. Regulations in Japan and EU restrict the use of cadmium, and not being able to sell products in those markets is a compelling reason to switch to cadmium-free QDs. OEMs are looking for collaborators that can produce cadmiumfree QDs.
  • 2. Manufacturers that can provide cadmium-free QDs with sufficient performance in sufficient volumes will definitely have an advantage in the market moving forward. Despite much effort, however, it has been difficult to match the performance features of cadmium. Thus, it will require further scientific efforts to develop market-friendly non-toxic QDs for lucrative regions such as the EU and Japan. Companies to Watch Sony is furthest ahead in this space, with commercially available TVs that incorporate QD Vision’s patented Color IQ technology. These are primarily high end TVs, but they have a much more market-friendly price point than OLED TVs. The QDs in these products replace conventional LED phosphors. Unlike coated blue LEDs that are used in traditional TVs, Color IQ utilizes uncoated blue LEDs that not only emit pure blue light, but also energize the red and green QDs to emit red and green light, thus limiting waste and improving energy efficiency. TVs using Color IQ technology can achieve 100 percent of the color spectrum specified by the National Television System Committee (NTSC). In comparison, most standard LCD TVs only deliver 60 to 70 percent. NanoMarkets believes that QD Vision is going to remain at the forefront of the QD revolution. The Color IQ process provides a reasonably cost-effective way to produce an enriched range of color compared to traditional LCD TVs. That said, Sony cannot drive adoption of QD-enhanced TVs on its own. QD Vision and other manufacturers are going to need to develop relationships with multiple OEMs in order to successfully drive the market. We have seen hints of moves in this direction. Nanosys is receiving support from Samsung to develop cadmium-free QDs. If this leads to a collaborative effort that produces QD-enhanced TVs from Samsung, both Nanosys and the overall QD market will benefit. It might just provide the push needed to allow QDenhanced TVs to eventually become the technology of choice. Nanosys has its own patented process for creating photoluminescent QDs. Its QD enhancement film (QDEF), developed in partnership with 3M, can be placed on top of a traditional LED backlight, allowing OEMs to incorporate QDs into existing LED backlit displays. With this design, the QD film absorbs blue light from the LED and produces red and green light that are further combined with the original blue light to produce a high quality white light. Nanosys recently demonstrated Hisense LCD TVs using QDEF. These do not appear to be commercially available at present, but Nanosys has the capability to manufacture large quantities of the QD material used to produce QDEF films. This gives it a chance to be successful in this market. A couple of start-up companies are focusing on mass production of QDs. Although they have not yet gotten their QD materials into commercial products, volume production capabilities give them an advantage over competitors. Nanoco, based in the U.K., has a wet chemistry process using inkjet printing, and has modified
  • 3. its processes to be able to produce cadmium-free QDs with good optical properties. It move to establish a cost-effective bulk manufacturing base in Japan, one of the largest LCD markets, is likely to attract potential LCD display manufacturers. U.S.-based Quantum Materials Corporation (QMC) produces CdSe and cadmium-free tetrapod QDs using a continuous flow process that can be scaled by using additional micro-reactors. The tetrapod shape can provide more precise color control and greater luminescence than standard spherical QDs, which may give QMC an advantage. The company has not been focusing on the large display market, but perhaps it should. Opportunities for Quantum Dots Large displays are the most promising commercial market for QDs over the next few years. NanoMarkets forecasts that the market for QD-enhanced backlit TVs should grow from around $18 million in 2014 to over $230 million by the end of the decade. Similar QD-enhanced backlighting for smaller displays is not quite as lucrative a market today, but we expect adoption of QDs in these products to increase. In both markets, companies that can produce large quantities of high quality cadmium-free QDs will benefit the most. Other potential uses for QDs, such as in direct emission displays and lighting, do not have much prospect for growth in the short term. NanoMarkets does not believe that suppliers should ignore them completely, because they should be viable in a few years, but the window of opportunity now is in backlit displays. Market Value of QDs Used in the TV Segment (US$ million) 250 $ Millions 200 150 100 50 0 2013 2014 © NanoMarkets 2013 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020