Display makers hoping to achieve differentiation in the LCD market may have a new ally in quantum dot (QD) technology, which delivers higher color gamut than in current LCD displays. The new QD technology is also being hailed as a potential tool for LCDs to compete against their biggest rival, organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays, because QD comes in at just one-third the cost of OLED.
As light-emitting semiconductor nanocrystals whose size can be changed by the nanometer, QD technology is able to emit many more colors through the visible color spectrum. Current LCD technology uses a white LED backlight passing through the LCD’s blue, red and green filters, but phosphors are required to convert blue light to white. As a result, light is lost and displays reach only 70 to 80 percent of the color gamut.
In comparison, QD technology uses a blue LED in the backlight and no conversion phosphors are needed, allowing more light to go through and resulting in 100 percent color gamut. The wider color gamut of QD is a result of its capability to produce colors that closely match what the human eye can see. QD also consumes less power than competing technologies, producing additional savings beyond their lower price.
QD has some shortcomings, including the use of cadmium materials that are toxic to both the environment and the human body.
Still, QD will get its chance to compete as brands upgrade their LCDs. Total shipments of LCDs incorporating quantum dot technology will surge to a staggering 135.2 million units in 2020, up from less than 1 million in 2013.
QD technology is beginning to penetrate the TV market in the first quarter this year, with vendors advancing their first competitive high-end products. At CES 2015, LG and Samsung each had their own offerings under different names—LG via its Color Prime TV, and Samsung through its designated SUHD models.
The new technology is also set to infiltrate other products, including tablets following the release of the QD-equipped Amazon Fire Kindle HDX. The monitor market could likewise open up to QD for special applications, such as graphics and medical devices, after QD takes off in the TV space.
Meanwhile, only some high-end laptop models geared toward gaming are likely to end up using QD, while smartphones overall will lag other markets in deploying QD due to challenges in smartphone size, structure and temperature. TVs remain the biggest application area for QD thus far
Richard Son is senior analyst, display materials & components, IHS Technology