Small OLED displays for smartphones and other applications are now being mass produced by Samsung and a few other manufacturers, and their manufacture is rapidly taking off at most of the major display makers in Taiwan, Korea, China and Japan. But LG remains the only panel supplier to mass produce TV displays and this is likely to remain unchanged until at least 2018.
The performance of LCD TVs with LED backlights based on Quantum Dots (QD) downconverters is close to, or even better than OLED in some respects, and comes at a lower cost (see Yole Développement report “Phosphors & Quantum Dots 2015: LED Downconverters for Lighting & Displays”).
While OLEDs are not yet ready, QDLCD has a unique window of opportunity to try to close enough of the performance gap to prevent the majority of consumers from noticing a significant difference between the two technologies. As a result, the price would become the driving factor in the purchasing decision (to understand the Quantum Dots patent landscape, please see the KnowMade report “Phosphors and QDs for LED Applications Patent Landscape”). Yole Développement interviewed Jason Hartlove, the President and CEO of Nanosys, world leader in QD for display manufacturing, in order to understand the company’s development status and what we can expect in the next 3 years.
Yole Développement: Could you introduce yourself and your role at Nanosys Inc.?
Jason Hartlove: I am Jason Hartlove and I am the President and CEO of Nanosys. I joined the company in 2008 and drove the development of the products we have today like QDEF® Quantum Dot film technology for displays.
YD: Can you tell us about Nanosys Inc.’s history, products and ongoing development projects?
JH: Nanosys was founded in 2001. We’ve been working on Quantum Dots since that time and have developed a portfolio of 293 granted and pending patents (for the QD patent landscape, please see the KnowMade report “Phosphors and QDs for LED Applications Patent Landscape”). In 2009 we began to focus on Quantum Dots for display and our first product in 2013 was the Amazon Kindle Fire.
YD: What products does the company propose, and what is in volume production or has been sent to clients for validation?
JH: Nanosys is the world’s largest manufacturer of Quantum Dots for displays. We have shipped over 5 tons of Quantum Dot materials to our customers to date. Nanosys provides companies with QD materials that they turn into components for the display industry: manufacturing films, specific structures, etc. and then sell on to LCD manufacturers. Companies like 3M and numerous others are our direct customers. Nanosys is also involved with display makers in order to educate them on the added value of QD, but the direct relationship is between other commercial companies. We have already delivered 5 tons of QD concentrate to customers and we are able to deliver enough material for more than 18 million 60’’class TVs per year.
YD: What are the advantages of quantum dots compared to the other technologies?
JH: Quantum dots improve the power efficiency, brightness and color performance of LED LCD displays. This enables LCD to compete with and even surpass OLED displays in many aspects.
Quantum dots are a natural fit for displays; they are the world’s most efficient emitter material. This means they emit more light for less power which is critical both in TVs, for high peak luminance applications like HDR, and in mobile displays, for improved battery life.
YD: The reviews for the first Samsung UHD TVs on the market based on quantum dots were quite positive. But those sets are still quite expensive. Do you think Quantum Dots can make it into lower-end or even entry-level sets and still offer an improvement to disruptive images?
JH: In the USA today, a 55″ Samsung Quantum Dot TV can be purchased for $1,500. The QD materials cost per display is limited (a few tens of dollars) and is generally offset by the cost savings that are made on the production line with less LED, less materials for light management, and so on. As a result, integrating QD materials is now a cost-neutral solution.
YD: What status do Nanosys Inc. products have on the display market?
JH: Nanosys technology can be found in TV products from 3 of the top 4 TV makers. Brands include Samsung SUHD, Vizio, TCL, Hisense, and Sharp. Tablet and notebook products include the ASUS Zenbook NX500 and Amazon Kindle Fire HDX7. In 2016 we expect the first mobile products with QD and we just had our first design win.
Today QDs are used to enhance LCD displays but we can also use QD film as a color clarifier in OLED displays. We are working on this topic at the moment and we expect to have developed a product by the end of 2017, extending the scope of our technology.
YD: Do you think the technology could also compete in lighting? In what timeframe?
JH: This is not a focus for us.
YD: Cadmium seems to be a no-go for some of the major TV OEMs. What status do Cd-Free Quantum Dots have? Will they ever rival the Cd-based compositions?
JH: Nanosys offers both solutions and Nanosys R&D is entirely focused on Cadmium-free Quantum Dot technology. While Cadmium-Free technology does not have the same level of performance today, we are working hard to close the gap. Cadmium-free QD represented 10% of Nanosys’ business in 2014, mainly from R&D projects. In 2016 we expect that 40% of Nanosys’ revenue will be based on Cadmium-free QD, which is a big change.
YD: Are you working on QD LEDs? Is there a real potential for future display applications or are there any fundamental barriers?
JH: We are working on QD LEDs. They are the future of Quantum Dots for displays. We are developing QLEDs, using the QD as a light generator. We are working on a very specific development with key customers at the moment, with a time to market that is already defined (but confidential).
YD: Can you describe the next steps in Nanosys Inc.’s development?
JH: A key focus for us is working on packaging the materials. Further improvements will enable us to package QDs in unique new ways, lowering costs and improving profits.
Jason Hartlove – President & CEO
Jason Hartlove joined Nanosys in 2008 with a proven track record of turning emerging technologies into successful commercial products. His vision for Nanosys has led the company to focus on high-growth markets with urgent pain points that Nanosys technologies are uniquely positioned to solve such as vibrant, efficient displays for portable devices.
Prior to joining Nanosys, he was president of the Imaging Solutions Division of MagnaChip Semiconductor in Seoul, South Korea, where he turned an internally focused semiconductor group into a multinational company on track for an IPO. Before MagnaChip, Hartlove was vice president and general manager of the Sensor Solutions Division of Agilent Technologies, a Hewlett-Packard owned company. At Agilent, he led the commercial development and application of optical position sensing technology, which resulted in everyday products like the optical mouse and image sensors for digital cameras.
Hartlove is the author of more than 20 patents, including the winner of the Hewlett Award in 2004 for best patent. He holds a B.S. in electrical engineering from UCLA and has completed graduate work at the Anderson School of Management at UCLA.
Discover the Phosphors & Quantum Dots 2015: LED Downconverters for Lighting & Displays report
Traditional phosphors on the verge of commoditization due to expected strong push from China after YAG patents fall into public domain. But Quantum Dots are finally ready for prime time.
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