Quantum Dot Manufacturing to get Less Expensive
Posted By: Chris Chinnock
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Materials, Components and Manufacturing – Quantum dot technology is already being used to create wide color gamut displays but the quantum dots are quite expensive to make, leading to a price premium for their use. That’s about to change thanks to Quantum Materials Corporation (QMC) (San Marcos, TX). Their recent purchase of key patents from Bayer Technology Services clears the way to move forward with new automated processes that promise to have a major impact on the cost of production.
The news from the company is the acquisition of the quantum dot patent portfolio from Bayer. This consists of 5 patents: one fundamental patent covering modification of the quantum dot surface; two on production automation and two on solar cells using quantum dots. The patents were needed to secure a strong IP position in the automation of quantum dots for displays and solar cells. According to QMC Director of Marketing, Art Lamstein, who we spoke with about the news, Bayer has decided not to pursue development of quantum dots so was willing to sell its portfolio to QMC. Terms and pricing were not disclosed, however (see press release).
So what does quantum dot production automation mean and why is it important? Most quantum dots today are made in a batch process – materials are placed in one vessel and processed until complete. Automation means the materials are sent from vessel to vessel on an assembly line. While it may not be as impactful on the introduction of the assembly line for automobile manufacture, it will allow a lot more quantum dots to be produced, leading to lower prices.
For example, today the batch process yields on the order of grams per hour, according to Lamstein. Their automated process will produce 25 grams/hour and will soon be able to produce 100 grams/hour. Additional equipment means production can also increase to 1 Kg/hr. “We can soon produce enough quantum dots to immediately satisfy the display industry needs,” says Lamstein.
Production of quantum dots consists of two stages: nucleation and growing and shelling. Shelling decreases the surface defects allowing brighter, more efficient and longer lasting quantum dot materials. Most quantum dots use “thin shells” but QMC has also just licensed “thick shell” technology from Los Alamos National laboratory that will be implemented in their production process perhaps in 2015. This will enable quantum dots that can be up to 100 times brighter than phosphors without the so called “blinking” issue whereby the output of the quantum dot decreases over time (see image).
QMC has developed their automated quantum dot production process based on technology developed at Rice University. There are now patents pending on this process which allows creation of quantum dots with very high control of the size (the size determines the emitted color when stimulated by blue light and the full width half maximum bandwidth of the spectrum).
The patents acquired from Bayer provide broad intellectual property protection for advances QMC has achieved in economical high-volume quantum dot manufacturing. In addition, the Bayer patents cover volume production technology for heavy metal-free (HMF) quantum dots and nano-particles; increasing quantum yields for HMF quantum dots; and hybrid organic quantum dot solar cell (QDSC) production as well as a surface modification process for increased efficiency of high performance solar cells and printed electronics.
Stephen Squires, Quantum Materials CEO and president noted that, “Bayer is a research pioneer in the nanotech and QD fields and these early filings were awarded with broad claims. It will be very difficult for competitors to produce materials in volume similar to ours without breaching our patents.”
The quantum dot-related patents extend Quantum Materials’ ability to synthesize numerous heavy metal-free organic periodic table groups in addition to its own inorganic Group II-VI composites. The company intends to incorporate each patent into its advanced production processes, including high yield InP/ZnS nanocrystals, a heavily researched QD that will be in high demand in optoelectronics.
The solar-related patents describe the fundamental design of quantum dot solar cells and processes for optimizing quantum dots for solar and other printed electronics applications. The solar patents enhance Quantum Material’s licensed patent on printing OLED and QD solar cells and other printed electronic devices by gravure or high-speed roll-to-roll.