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Quantum Dots Pave Way For Flexible Displays

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A UK firm is helping manufacturers to make flexible TVs and wall-sized screens using quantum dots

British nanotechnology firm Nanoco has said it is working with Asian electronics manufacturers to produce next-generation televisions using ‘quantum dots’, a type of tiny three-dimensional semiconductor discovered in the early 1980s.

Nanoco’s quantum dots could find their way into next-generation flat-screen televisions by the end of next year, and may enable the manufacture of more advanced products such as flexible screens in another three years, according to Nanoco.

Greener displays

The use of Nanoco’s quantum dots could also reduce the hazardous substances found in electronics, since they are free of restricted metals such as cadmium.

“We are working with some major Asian electronics companies. The first products we are expecting to come to market using quantum dots will be the next generation of flat-screen televisions,” Nanoco chief executive Michael Edelman told The Telegraph.

He said that manufacturers could soon begin using quantum dots to create flexible screens that can be rolled up like paper or used to cover a wall.

“The real advantage provided by quantum dots… is that they can be printed on to a plastic sheet that can rolled up. It is likely these will be small personal devices to begin with,” Edelman said. “Something else we are looking at is reels of wallpaper or curtains made out of a material that has quantum dots printed on it. You can imagine displaying scenes of the sun rising over a beach as you wake up in the morning.”

Sony, Sharp, Samsung and LG are reportedly believed to be working on quantum-dot televisions.

While quantum dots have been known for some time, Nanoco is one of the few companies to mass-produce them, and its technology is becoming more appealing due to the lack of restricted rare earth elements in its dots.

Restricted metals

Rare earth elements such as cadmium, mercury, lead and hexavalent chromium are increasingly being restricted in electronics components due to their toxic properties.

Cadmium is commonly used in certain LEDs, such as those used in lighting and displays. However, it is currently exempted from the European Union’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive due to the fact that there isn’t yet a practical substitute for cadmium in some LED applications. This exemption is due to end in July 2014, according to a European Commission decision of February 2010.

Apart from displays, Nanoco believes its quantum dots could be feasible for backlights, illumination, flexible low-cost solar cells and biological imaging uses.

In August Nanoco signed a joint development agreement with an unnamed major manufacturer to develop LEDs based on its quantum dots.

In 2009 MIT researchers used quantum dots to help efficiently capture wasted heat from electrical devices and turn it into usable power.