The Way forward for Screens Is So Prime-Secret, I Cannot Present It But

I noticed the longer term at CES 2023, and I wasn’t even planning on going. When Nanosys, an organization whose quantum dot expertise is in hundreds of thousands of TVs, provided to indicate me a top-secret prototype of a next-generation show, I booked a resort instantly. 

What received me so excited? Electroluminescent quantum dots. It is the next-generation tech that may be a part of and presumably exchange LCD and OLED for telephones and TVs. It guarantees improved image high quality, power financial savings and manufacturing effectivity. A less complicated construction makes these shows theoretically really easy to supply, they might usher in a sci-fi world of cheap screens on every little thing from eyeglasses to windscreens and home windows. 

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The prototype I noticed at CES wasn’t easy, nevertheless. Contained in the Nanosys suite on the Westgate resort, a brief stroll from the conference middle, tables towards the partitions confirmed totally different TVs and screens that includes quantum dots. And there on one desk, farthest from the door, was the 6-inch prototype I had come to see. A maze of wires related it to multi-tiered circuit boards. It was impossibly flat, like a vibrantly glowing piece of paper. A gallery of colourful nature photos cycled by on display screen, the de-facto customary content material for pre-production show demos. 

It felt like I used to be gazing one thing from the longer term, as a result of, mainly, I used to be. It is so cutting-edge, Nanosys stated I may solely present a blurred picture and could not take any video. They instructed me their as-yet-unnamed manufacturing accomplice goes to be speaking extra in regards to the expertise in a number of months, nevertheless, so hopefully we’ll be taught extra quickly. Within the meantime, this is what I can inform you.

The QD previous and current

A diagram of the many layers required for LED LCDs, and where in those layers QD would be added.

Two of the present strategies of including quantum dots to LED LCD shows. The primary distinction is having the ability to add the QDs to the diffuser plate as an alternative of it having its personal movie layer.


Let me again up a second. Quantum dots are tiny particles that when provided with power emit particular wavelengths of sunshine. Totally different dimension quantum dots emit totally different wavelengths. Or to place it one other manner, some dots emit purple gentle, others inexperienced, and others nonetheless, blue. There are extra potentialities, however for show tech, RGB is all you want. They’re additionally terribly environment friendly, nearly completely emitting the identical quantity of power absorbed.

For the previous few years, quantum dots have been utilized by TV producers to spice up the brightness and shade of LCD TVs. The “Q” in QLED TV stands for “quantum.” Initially solely present in high-end TVs, quantum dots now present in mid- and lower-end TVs from manufacturers together with Samsung, TCL, Hisense, LG and Vizio. They permit improved shade, greater HDR brightness and extra. 


How quantum dots are added to QD-OLED and microLED shows. Within the case of the previous, the entire panel is actually blue OLED pixels, some are transformed utilizing QD to be purple or inexperienced. Within the case of the latter, QDs are integrated into the microLEDs themselves. 


Extra not too long ago, Samsung mixed quantum dots with the unbelievable distinction ratios of OLED. Their (and accomplice Sony’s) QD-OLED TVs have a few of the greatest picture high quality of any TV ever. 

Till now, quantum dots have been all the time a supporting participant in one other expertise’s sport. A futuristic booster for older tech, elevating that tech’s efficiency. QDs weren’t a personality on their very own. That’s not the case.

Samsung OLED TV with dandelion on the screen

Samsung already sells OLED TVs enhanced by quantum dots.

Direct-view quantum dots

The quantum dots utilized in show tech up up to now are what’s referred to as “photoluminescent.” They soak up gentle, then emit gentle. With LED LCD TVs, this often meant LEDs emitting blue gentle. This blue gentle could be the blue gentle you’d see on the TV, however it was additionally used to trigger purple and inexperienced quantum dots to emit their very own coloured gentle. So what you’d see on display screen is blue gentle from the LEDs, and purple and inexperienced gentle from the quantum dots, all combining to assist create a picture. There are a selection of how to implement this course of, however that is the essential concept. 

A diagram of an electroluminescent quantum dot display.

Direct view, electroluminescent quantum dot shows. You’ll be able to consider it like a standard LED LCD or OLED show, however as an alternative of LCD or OLED pixels, it is pixels fabricated from simply quantum dots. Notice the far fewer layers, which theoretically ought to imply decrease manufacturing prices and different advantages.


The prototype I noticed was utterly totally different. No conventional LEDs and no OLED. As a substitute of utilizing gentle to excite quantum dots into emitting gentle, it makes use of electrical energy. Nothing however quantum dots. Electroluminescent, aka direct-view, quantum dots. That is enormous. 

Or at the least, has the potential to be enormous. Theoretically, this may imply thinner, extra energy-efficient shows. It means shows that may be simpler, as in cheaper, to fabricate. That might imply even inexpensive, extra environment friendly, bigger-screen TVs. The potential in image high quality is at the least nearly as good as QD-OLED, if not higher. The tech is scalable from tiny, light-weight, high-brightness shows for next-generation VR headsets, to extremely environment friendly telephone screens, to high-performance flat-screen TVs.

A hand-built box showing a rainbow of pixels lit by electroluminescent quantum dots.

An earlier electroluminescent quantum dot “proof of idea” demo field.


Nanosys calls this direct-view, electroluminescent quantum dot tech “nanoLED” which, for the report, I do not like. The TV market is stuffed with “LED” issues and I feel it is a bit of a stretch to ask the common particular person to grasp “nano” is totally different from “micro” and “mini.” However hey, if I used to be good at advertising, I might be rather a lot higher paid. 

The sci-fi future

The potential with TVs and telephone screens is thrilling, however that is not the place the potential of electroluminescent QD ends. Having what quantities to a less complicated show construction, you may incorporate QD-based shows in a greater diversity of conditions. Or extra particularly, on a greater diversity of surfaces. Primarily, you may print a whole QD show onto a floor with out the warmth required by different “printable” tech. 

What does this imply? Nearly any flat or curved floor may very well be a display screen. This has lengthy been the promise of a wide range of applied sciences, to not point out numerous sci-fi exhibits and flicks, however electroluminescent QD has the potential to really make it occur.

For example, you would incorporate a display screen onto the windshield of a automobile for a extra elaborate, high-resolution, easy-to-see, heads-up show. Velocity and navigation instructions for certain, however how about augmented actuality for safer nighttime driving with QD-display-enhanced lane markers and road indicators? Or think about a windscreen that may present you, with out taking your eyes off the highway, the place different automobiles are round you. Most of these QD-displays may have a lightweight transmission of 95%, which means they’d look just about precisely like regular glass when off.

A black pair of smart glasses on an illuminated white table, with clear lenses.

AR glasses, just like the TCL variations seen right here that use MicroLED expertise, are one doable use for electroluminescent quantum dots.

James Martin/

Since I first received eyeglasses, I dreamed about having a display screen in-built that would present me information like in a online game. AR glasses have been a factor, however they’re cumbersome, low decision and, to be completely sincere, lame. A QD show may very well be printed on the lenses themselves, requiring much less elaborate electronics within the frames. They might look similar to common eyeglasses, however present incoming message information, a video name, maps, or a film. It is all very cyberpunk.

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Just about any floor may work like this. I feel an apparent early use, regardless of how annoying it may very well be, could be bus or subway home windows. These will initially be pitched by cities as a strategy to present individuals vital information, however inevitably they’re going to be used for promoting. That is definitely not a knock towards the tech, simply how issues work on the earth.

Past the quantum realm

A magnifying lens show red, green, and blue pixels from a quantum dot color conversion film demo display.

A closeup of a pixel from a quantum dot shade conversion movie.

Geoffrey Morrison/

The historical past of CES is suffering from superior prototypes that by no means got here to market, relegated to historical past and the minds of bald, bespectacled tech journalists. Nanosys has a stable historical past, and works with the largest names within the manufacturing world. That is what they have been working in direction of for years. It was all the time on the fringe of the timeline they’d share yearly. Once I first met with them a number of years in the past, the primary shows with quantum dots have been about to hit the market. Now they’re in all places. A couple of years after that, they talked about including QD to OLED. Now these are right here. QD by itself, direct-view electroluminescent QD, was all the time their purpose. And now it is right here. 

Properly, kind of. It is a prototype. Even Nanosys admits direct-view quantum dot shows are nonetheless a number of years away from mass manufacturing. 

Red and green vials of photoluminescent quantum dots next to a prototype blue electroluminescent QD.

Two vials of photoluminescent quantum dots subsequent to a blue electroluminescent QD emitter.

Nanosys – Amanda Carpenter and Oleg Grachev

The price of early manufacturing will decide what dimension we’ll see initially. Telephones and VR headsets first, then TVs later? Could possibly be. TV manufacturing services are costly to construct, and firms aren’t going to wish to convert or shut older factories earlier than getting a full return on funding. So it is seemingly we’ll nonetheless have legacy LCDs with quantum dots alongside QD-OLED alongside direct-view QD on retailer cabinets for the close to future. 

Past that, who is aware of? Some new tech will definitely come alongside that shall be even higher. However 5-10 years from now we’ll nearly definitely have choices for QD shows in our telephones, most likely in our residing rooms, and presumably on our windshields and home windows. 

Yep, seeing that was undoubtedly definitely worth the go to to CES.

In addition to overlaying TV and different show tech, Geoff does photograph excursions of cool museums and places all over the world, together with nuclear submarines, large plane carriers, medieval castles, epic 10,000-mile highway journeys and extra. Try Tech Treks for all his excursions and adventures.

He wrote a bestselling sci-fi novel about city-size submarines and a sequel. You’ll be able to observe his adventures on Instagram and his YouTube channel.

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