In 2013, Quantum Dots (QDs) finally transitioned from the status of “exciting science project” to that of consumer product thanks to the introduction by Sony of a television and by Amazon of a Kindle tablet making use of the technology to enhance color rendering and improve energy consumption.
According to Yole Développement (Yole) report Quantum Dots and Wide Color Gamut Display Technologies, more than 6 million TVs sold in 2017 will feature Quantum Dots, but this number is anticipated to grow dramatically to more than 75 million units within the next 5 years thanks to a combination of decreasing cost, improved performance and new architectures that will further improve color rendering, efficiency, viewing angles and contrast.
(Source: Quantum Dots and Wide Color Gamut Display Technologies, Yole Développement, August 2017)
We had the opportunity to speak with Russell Kempt, Vice President of Worldwide Sales & Marketing at Nanosys, the leading independent supplier of quantum dots for the display industry. We discussed new developments and future prospects at Nanosys as well as global industry trends.
Yole: Can you please introduce yourself and your activities within Nanosys Inc.?
Russell Kempt (RK) : Sure, my name is Russell Kempt and I am the Vice President of Worldwide Sales & Marketing here at Nanosys. I oversee strategic partnerships and drive Nanosys’ top line revenue growth.
Yole: Can you introduce Nanosys Inc. history, products and ongoing development projects?
RK: Founded in 2001, the Nanosys is headquartered in Silicon Valley, California where we operate the world’s largest Quantum Dot nanomaterials fab with manufacturing capacity for over 25 tons of Quantum Dot materials per year.
Our first product, a film for LCDs based on photo-luminescent Quantum Dots, that we call Quantum Dot Enhancement Film (QDEF), hit the market in 2013 in the Kindle Fire HDX 7” tablet. Now, just a few years later, our technology is being deployed in displays of all types and sizes, ranging all the way up to 88-inch TVs. It is an exciting time for quantum dots and Nanosys.
There are three key photo luminescent Quantum Dot types made by Nanosys today: traditional cadmium-based Quantum Dots, 100% cadmium free QD and a new low cadmium QD formulation that is just starting to come to market. Each of our products offer unique solutions for the market needs and performance demanded by our customers.
Our company is also actively developing the next generations of quantum dot display technologies. This work is focused primarily in two areas: photo-emissive and electro-emissive.
Photo-Emissive technology will move Quantum Dots from the backlight to the front of the display. This technology enables us to replace inefficient, passive color filters with a layer of active Quantum Dot emitters. This results in game changing gains in efficiency, much wider viewing angles and the highest color gamut of any technology. Additionally, the ability to pattern Quantum Dots allows us to bring the color and efficiency benefits of our technology into nearly any type of display from LCD to microLED to OLED. We expect to see this technology commercialized beginning at the end of 2018 with wider availability in 2019.
Electro-Emissive, which is also called electroluminescent (EL QD), is the future of Quantum Dot technology. EL Quantum Dots are similar to OLED devices in that the Quantum Dots convert electricity into photons. Unlike OLEDs, EL QD displays can be made using the lowest cost printing techniques, offer the robust reliability of inorganic materials and can be tuned to meet any color spec. Nanosys announced record-setting external quantum efficiency (EQE) of greater than 10% for blue cadmium free materials at SID DisplayWeek back in May. We expect to see Electro Emissive Quantum Dots commercialized in the next three to five years.
(Source: Quantum Dots and Wide Color Gamut Display Technologies, Yole Développement, August 2017)
Yole: What is Nanosys business model? Is the company focusing on IP and licensing or ramping up manufacturing?
RK: Nanosys is a materials company focused on ramping up manufacturing and brining new quantum dot displays to market. As I mentioned earlier, we operate the world’s largest Quantum Dot nanomaterials fab. We are currently in the process of expanding our capacity to meet increased demand from the market.
Yole: How can QDs help LCD displays compete with OLED?
RK: Both Quantum Dot LCDs and OLEDs offer excellent, premium viewing experiences for consumers. We run a lot of side-by-side comparisons here at Nanosys and, in many cases, the two technologies are so close that it can be difficult to choose a winner. That said, there are some important differences that enable Quantum Dot LCDs to compete with OLEDs on both performance and cost.
Quantum Dots LCDs deliver the highest color volume performance required to experience the latest High Dynamic Range (HDR) content in its full glory. This is possible because QD LCDs can generate both high luminance and pure color at the same time thanks to Quantum Dot technology. OLEDs, on the other hand, offer compromised color that is washed-out by mixing in white for high-luminance HDR content.
Some people would point to black levels as an advantage for OLEDs. However, the latest Full Array Local Dimming (FALD) LCDs are so good that they can match or beat OLEDs in perceived contrast for most real world viewing conditions. Even in a relatively dim, evening living room environment, the difference between a “true zero” and “near zero” black are lost to light reflections on the screen. Therefore, most consumers don’t see a real advantage for OLEDs, even in black level.
In terms of cost, there is absolutely no comparison between the two. QD LCDs are well under 50% of the cost of OLED TVs today. QD LCD requires zero capex investment from LCD makers. Therefore, it can easily leverage the massive, $180B+ installed capex base for LCD manufacturing. OLED TV is limited to a single 8.5G fab today and the massive investment required to meaningfully increase its market share will limit the technology to niche status for many years to come.
Yole: Are QDs going to remain confined to premium TVs?
RK: Quantum Dots have offered LCD makers a unique technology differentiator to help them compete with OLED at the high end of the market. Looking ahead, we do see Quantum Dot technology beginning to move into mid-tier and mainstream products. This trend will be driven both by increased capacity and availability of QDEF films as well as the emergence of Photo Emissive technology at the high end of the market.
When can we expect to see the first TVs with QDs replacing the color filters? What additional benefits this will bring compared to film solutions?
We call this architecture “Photo-Emissive” quantum dot and it could change the way LCDs are made. Today’s LCDs shine a white light through red, green and blue color filters, to select the colors seen at the front of the display. This is inherently inefficient because the filters waste about 2/3 of the light generated in the backlight. By moving the quantum dots to the front of the display and replacing that wasteful passive filter with an active layer of color converting quantum dots, we can improve power efficiency by two to three times. We expect to see devices based on Photo Emissive quantum dots as soon as next year with wider availability following in 2019.
This is a big step for the industry and, unlike today’s OLEDs, photo-emissive quantum dot displays can be produced in ambient conditions as opposed to in a vacuum. We privately showed similar demonstrations of inkjet printed color filters and look forward to sharing more as we continue to develop these printing technologies.
Yole: Will QD color filters completely replace films?
RK: Our vision is to see quantum dots become the de facto backlight technology for LCD, and there is a very good chance of that happening. You look back at the last big display technology transition – from CCFL-based LCD to LED-based LCD – and the industry switched over fairly quickly due to the obvious benefits of LEDs, such as power efficiency and thinner form factors. We think we’ll see a similar pattern here where the LCD industry will want to move to quantum dot backlights for obvious benefits in color, high dynamic range and power efficiency.
QDEF will continue to offer excellent performance with zero additional capex cost to the massive installed base of LCD manufacturing capacity.
Additionally, replacing the color filters with Quantum Dots requires some changes to the LCD manufacturing process. We expect to see manufacturers roll the technology out more gradually across their production lines with capacity expanding more rapidly in 2019 and beyond.
Picture courtesy of Nanosys
Yole: What is the status of development of Electro-Luminescent QDs (EL-QD) at Nanosys? What are the pros- and cons compared to OLED?
RK: Nanosys is leading the way in the development of EL QD displays. As I mentioned earlier, we recently achieved better than 10% external quantum efficiency (EQE) for our blue cadmium free EL-QD emitter materials. This is a key milestone in the development of EL QD displays. For context, the best commercially available blue OLEDs are not much better.
However, there is more work to do before EL QD displays are fully commercialized. We expect to see displays in the 3-5 year timeframe.
We think that Quantum Dots have the potential to deliver on the promise of OLED. For many years, we’ve heard that OLEDs will soon be available in low-cost printed form factors with high performance blue. Progress has been made but we’ve not yet seen that vision come to fruition.
Quantum Dots offer a fundamentally better emitter material, with no known physical limitation in blue performance, the excellent reliability of an inorganic materials set – note that today’s QD materials already offer orders of magnitude better oxygen and moisture stability than OLEDs – and rapid gains in efficiency performance to date.
More importantly, Quantum Dots can deliver on the promise of low cost manufacturing. All of the work being done today on EL QD is being done using printing techniques. There will not be the kind of awkward attempt to switch from costly vapor deposition manufacturing to printing that we are seeing for OLED because we are already there! With true low cost printing it may soon be possible to bring displays to markets and applications where today’s display technologies are either prohibitively expensive or too bulky. We’re excited about the possibilities here.
Yole: Is there a future for Cadmium-containing QDs?
RK: Nanosys remains agnostic about this topic since we manufacture and sell the best performing quantum dots on the market of all types at the most competitive prices. In fact, the top selling Cadmium and Cadmium free display products available in the market today are all based on Nanosys technology.
There are three key photo luminescent Quantum Dot types made by Nanosys today: traditional cadmium-based QD, 100% cadmium free QD and a new low cadmium QD formulation that is just starting to come to market. Each of our products offer unique solutions for the market needs and performance demanded by our customers.
Despite rumors to the contrary, there has not been a “ban” on Cadmium for TVs and displays in Europe. In fact, the EU is currently preparing to extend a regulation that allows current cadmium levels for a further two years due to the unmatched energy efficiency benefits of Cadmium-containing Quantum Dots.
Yole: How do you see the surge of activity and increasing competition from China? What are Nanosys advantages and elements of differentiations?
RK: We see the emergence of competitors here as a further validation of the market for Quantum Dot displays. There would not be much interest in following our lead if there was a lack of optimism for QDs!
Nanosys will continue to lead in this space by both innovating and continuing to drive costs down. One example of Nanosys’ leadership in the space is our unique Hyperion material set. Hyperion offers the same performance as traditional cadmium-based materials while meeting strict RoHS environmental regulations.
Yole: Is Nanosys active on other applications than displays?
RK: Nanosys is completely focused on the display market. There are some intriguing future applications for Quantum Dots in applications outside of displays but no compelling business case to be made yet. We will continue to evaluate emerging uses of Quantum Dot technology as we improve the capabilities of our materials, our high volume manufacturing expertise and enable cost reduction to be well positioned for new opportunities.
Russell Kempt, Vice President of Worldwide Sales & Marketing, Nanosys Biography
Russell Kempt oversees strategic partnerships and drives Nanosys’ top line. Russell also tells the story of our company and helps customers understand our value proposition in global markets. Russell is an experienced negotiator with impressive diplomacy skills, enabling him to build relationships on behalf of Nanosys worldwide including in China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan.
Russell was most recently with Intermolecular where as VP of Global Sales he grew sales bookings significantly over 4 years, enabling a successful IPO for the company in 2011. Russell developed and managed sales and technical support teams in the US, Europe, Taiwan, China and Korea to execute highly complex sales processes with multiple customer touch points at key partners and customers. Prior to IMI, Russell was Strategic Accounts Sales Director for PDF Solutions where he led a team to successfully close multi-million dollar programs with semiconductor clients including Intel, Samsung, TSMC, Texas Instruments, IBM, Qualcomm and others.
Russell has a B.S. in Finance and Management from the University of Nebraska and an MBA from the University of Texas.
A comprehensive market and technology report on Quantum Dots and competing technologies for next generation ultra-high definition displays. Get more here
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