Based on a CNET article by Geoffrey Morrison, writer/photographer for CNET, Forbes and The New York Times.
I saw the future at CES 2023, an event I didn’t plan to attend. The program is inherently lengthy, I didn’t want to go from the beginning. However, just a few weeks before CES, the company Nanosys – whose quantum dot technology is already present in millions of TVs – invited me to see a top secret demo of the next-generation display.
That’s exactly what I’ve spent years writing about, which has the potential to overturn OLED’s hegemony. Immediately, I booked a hotel room.
What’s worth driving for 8 hours straight? It’s a quantum dot that glows with electricity. They are even more advanced than the quantum dot technology found in TVs today, and could replace LCD and OLED screens on both phones and TVs. They have the potential to improve image quality, energy savings, and production performance. With a simpler structure, they will speed up the mass production of screens; They can bring us closer to a fantasy future where cheap screens appear everywhere from eyeglasses, car windows to building windows.
However, the prototype I witnessed at CES had an incredibly complicated appearance. Inside the Nanosys showroom at the Westgate hotel, TVs and screens using quantum dot technology are everywhere. And placing it on the table furthest from the door was what brought me to witness it – a sample screen measuring just 6 inches.
A labyrinth of wires links the screen to the numerous circuit boards. It’s incredibly thin, like a sheet of paper that glows on its own. The screen continuously displays colorful images of nature – something that is always used in displaying screen performance.
I feel like I am directly admiring the beauty of nature. The technology was so secretive that Nanosys required me to blur the image and not to film. They also say that another unnamed manufacturing partner will soon announce more information about this technology within the next few months, so maybe we will know soon.
In the meantime, here’s what I can tell you.
Let me repeat the old story. Quantum dots are tiny particles that, when absorbed by light, emit certain wavelengths of light. Quantum dots of different sizes give off different wavelengths of light.
On the display screen, the dots will give off red (red – R), green (green – G) and blue (blue – B) light. Dots can produce other colors but on a common display, just RGB is enough. Besides, quantum dot technology also has great energy efficiency, which means good energy efficiency.
Over the years, quantum dot technology has been used to enhance brightness and color on LCD TVs; For example, the letter “Q” in QLED TV stands for “quantum”.
Previously, quantum dot technology was only applied on high-end TVs, but now, popular TV lines from Samsung, TCL or LG have all applied this technology. With quantum dots, screen colors are more vibrant and have higher brightness.
Recently, Samsung has combined quantum dot technology with the impressive contrast ability of OLED screens. In cooperation with Sony, Samsung launched the QD-OLED product line that delivers impressively realistic picture quality.
Quantum dot is still a technology that complements the power of TV. But soon, it will have a place of its own.
Up to this point, quantum dot technology applied in displays takes advantage of the ability of “photochemical luminescence”; Quantum dots absorb light, then emit light. On TVs with LED-based LCD screens, blue light will be produced directly by LEDs, red and green light emitted by quantum dots that absorb blue light from LEDs.
The color combination of LEDs and quantum dots helps to create the image displayed on the screen. The process is different for each TV, but the basic mechanism of action will be the same.
But the prototype I saw at CES was completely different. It does not possess a traditional LED or OLED mechanism. Instead of using light to excite the quantum dots to glow, it uses electricity to do so. The entire screen is visible thanks to quantum dots.
This is a huge step, or at least potentially explosive. In theory, we should have thinner screens and great energy efficiency. This makes mass production easier and cheaper. Future TVs could be even cheaper, more efficient and bigger screens, with picture quality on par with QD-OLED or even better.
The scale of this technology can range from small displays like VR glasses, to slightly larger screens like phone screens or to high-end flat-screen TVs.
Nanosys calls this direct luminescent electrochemical quantum dot technology “nanoLED”, a name that I personally have little interest in. The TV market already has too much of the term “LED”, and it’s too much of a stretch to ask users to distinguish between “nano” and “micro” and “mini”. But in the end, if I was good at marketing, my salary would be higher than now.
The potential to transform TV and phone screens excites us, but this won’t be the limit that electroluminescent quantum dots aim for. When we have a device with a simple structure, we can apply the quantum dot screen to a variety of situations, or more specifically, put it on an infinite number of planes.
Basically, you can place the quantum dot display on any surface without having to heat it. Any flat or curved surface can become a display screen. This has already appeared in many sci-fi productions, and Nanosys’ new quantum dot display technology could make that scenario a reality.
For example, you can mount the display on the windshield of your car to create a more detailed display panel. Obviously there will be vehicle speed, direction of travel, so what about an augmented reality screen that can clearly show signs and lanes to make driving at night safer? These quantum dot displays have up to 95% optical penetration, which means that when turned off, they will be no different from a regular glass.
Ever since the day I had to wear glasses, I’ve been dreaming of the time when the prescription glasses have a screen that displays information like in the game. While augmented reality glasses exist, they’re still too big, the resolution is still low, and it’s really bad technology. In the future, we can integrate quantum dot screens on glasses. They can take the form of a regular pair of glasses, but can still display messages, calls, maps, or even show movies. All of these capabilities are the high-tech of a cyberpunk future.
Any surface can be turned into a screen. I think the most obvious application is the glass doors of the tram. They can be used to display information about the city, and then for advertising. Technology can’t be blamed for putting ads in front of users’ eyes, because today’s society already works like that.
In the history of CES, there are too many advanced technology prototypes that appeared but never found their way into the market, only remaining on the website. history or in the bald head of a certain technology pen. But we still have reason to believe.
Nanosys has a long history of collaborating with reputable names in the manufacturing industry. This technology has been developed by them for many years. The first time I met them was many years ago, when the first quantum dot display was just about to be announced. Now, this technology is everywhere.
A few years later, they talked about integrating quantum dots into OLED screens, and now the technology is already on the market. They’ve always aimed for a full quantum dot display, and now it’s in front of me.
Well, in front of me is still just a prototype. Even Nanosys admits that it will be a few years before they can go into mass production of full quantum dot displays.
The cost of producing the first products will determine the size of the first “nanoLED” quantum dot displays. Will phones and VR glasses come first, then TVs? Very possible. TV production lines are expensive, and companies will not be able to immediately change existing production lines. So in the coming years, we will still see quantum dot technology backing up existing technologies.
But where can the future be confirmed? Perhaps more advanced technologies will emerge. But in the next 5 or 10 years, we will almost certainly see quantum dot screens appear on phones, in every living room or even in cars or private windows.
Indeed, this technology is worth a visit to my CES.