Samuel Halim, CEO and founder of Avantama AG, talks to AZoNano about the advances in quantum dot technology for the display industry.
SM: Why has the introduction of quantum dot enhanced TV's resulted in higher definition?
SH: Quantum dots create perfect white color in an LCDs based on a blue backlight. The red, green and blue light out of a quantum dot enhanced TV is well defined. By using quantum dots one gets rid of all the “in-between-colors”. By generating these pure colors a much wider color gamut as well as enhanced energy efficiency of an LCD TV is achieved.
SM: Is quantum dot technology held back by materials development and what advancements are being made to take the technology further?
SH: The introduction of a new generation of materials in an established industry like the display industry is always challenging. Usually the time scale is influenced by a number of factors like material performance, life time and costs. This is also valid for the case of quantum dots. So yes, materials development plays an important role on the time line. On the other hand, the display industry is dominated by only a handful very big players which always need to balance opportunity and risk. A large electronics company will only want to be the “first mover” of a new technology, if opportunities exceed the risks. Getting to this balance is not easy. Hence, the strategic decisions of the multinationals also play an important role in the implementation of new technologies like the quantum dot technology.
SM: How has the new Rec. 2020 standard helped display quality develop and what role has quantum dot technology played in this?
SH: Whether it is the Rec. 2020 standard or a different one, one of the main strategic goals of most, if not all major display producers, is to enhance the color gamut. Some companies are trying to achieve this with new platforms like OLED technology. Others are trying to achieve wider color gamuts based on their current platform, which is LCD technology. In the latter case quantum dots have proven to be the difference makers. The QD market is moving quickly which is why one needs to address the remaining challenges as soon as possible. Although the industry has seen different products, it is still waiting for a Cadmium-free, high-performing QD material at low cost. Currently, the quantum dots are only used in the top end of TVs due to their high costs.
SM: Can you tell us which quantum dot technologies are used in LCD displays?
SH: There are two well-known quantum dot technologies. One is based on cadmium selenide (CdSe) and the other one is based on indium phosphide (InP). The advantage of CdSe is its good performance, but it needs a RoHS exemption to be applied in LCD displays because of the use of Cadmium. InP’s performance cannot match the one of CdSe, but it is RoHS conform. Both technologies have one problem in common, which is costs. Even at commercial scale, they can only be applied in high-end TVs. We at Avantama have pioneered a third quantum dot technology based on novel perovskite QDs, which solves all challenges at once. Our QDs are performing even better than CdSe, but are within RoHS regulations. Last, but not least, our technology can also be used in mid-range TVs as the cost structure is much favourable compared to CdSe and InP.
SM: Which role do you see for the different quantum dot technologies in the display industry?
SH: The “first mover” Samsung solely uses Cd-free material, e.g. InP. Currently, different TV products seem to be launching a product using CdSe in their backlight films. This is quite a risk since the RoHS exemption is running out in 2018. We at Avantama are launching our first Perovkite-based QD films in 2018. We outperform CdSe in terms of performance as well as costs and we can offer a RoHS conform product. Therefore, we don’t see a future for cadmium based products on the market. We strongly believe only InP and our perovskite based quantum dots will be used in the mid-term future.
SM: Can you tell us about your patented process for creating Cd-free QDs?
SH: Our specialty at Avantama has always been the development of high-performing, high-efficient materials for the electronic industry. We are not a classical quantum dot company which brings a lot of advantages. Our competitors working with the traditional quantum dots work with elaborate techniques to control the size and properties of their quantum dots, which limits flexibility and adds to the costs. We on the other hand are taking advantage of all the material know-how we have generated over the past years. The result is that we have developed the best performing and least expensive quantum dot technology there is. We achieved all this within two years only. I believe this was only possible for a company with a non-QD background.
SM: What benefits do your perovskite QDs offer over InP or CdSe?
SH: First of all, our quantum dot technology is RoHS conform. We outperform InP by lengths and even CdSe with regard to energy efficiency and color gamut. Even more importantly, we can offer our product at much lower costs.
SM: Can you tell us about your new backlight film technology and the advantages this offers the low-priced and medium priced LCD display market?
SH: Our mid-term goal is to offer a QD film product 3-6x cheaper than the current products on the market. This will allow our customers to include the QD technology also to mid-range TVs, which makes up almost 40% of the whole LCD display market. It not only creates a benefit to the LCD industry, but also to the end consumer who can buy TVs consuming much less energy than their previous models.
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SM: How do you plan on developing this technology further?
SH: The nice thing about being involved in material innovation for the electronics industry is, that the industry never stops. Our product pipeline is filling up taking advantage of our unique quantum dot technology. After launching our first QD product in 2018, our plan is to launch the same product without the need of expensive barrier films. This will cut the price by close to 50%. Then, we would like to include the quantum dots in other parts of an TV screen making it even more efficient and further decreasing costs.
SM: Where can our readers learn more?
SH: Anyone, who is interested can visit our website http://avantama.com or contact us directly. We usually have a booth at DisplayWeek organized by the Society for Display Information. There, you have the opportunity to discuss with our management and project managers.
About Samuel Halim
Samuel Halim earned his PhD in Chemical Engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) after completing his materials engineering education in Zurich, Lausanne and Stockholm.
Samuel has worked with Avantama technology since 2003 and is co-inventor of technology that was acquired by a Fortune 100 company. Samuel is winner of the Venture Leader 2009 award and co-founded Nanograde in 2008.
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