This High-Secret Prototype Show Will Blow Your Thoughts

I noticed the longer term at CES 2023, and I wasn’t even planning on going. That present is a grind, and even when I did not must go, I did not wish to. Nonetheless, just a few weeks earlier than CES this 12 months, 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. Not simply any next-gen show, however one I have been writing about for years and which has the potential to dethrone OLED because the king of shows. I booked a lodge instantly.

What might be so attention-grabbing that I might drive an eight-hour spherical journey to see it? Electroluminescent quantum dots. These are much more superior than the quantum dots discovered within the TVs of at the moment. They might probably exchange LCD and OLED for telephones and TVs. They’ve the potential of 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 all the pieces 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 lodge, a brief stroll from the conference middle, tables in opposition to 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 linked it to multitiered circuit boards. It was impossibly flat, like a vibrantly glowing piece of paper. A gallery of colourful nature pictures cycled by way of on display, the de facto customary content material for preproduction 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 mentioned I might solely present a blurred picture and could not take any video. Its reps instructed me its as-yet-unnamed manufacturing associate goes to be speaking extra in regards to the expertise in just a few months, nevertheless, so hopefully we’ll be taught extra quickly. Within the meantime, this is what I can let you know.

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 principle distinction is having the ability to add the QDs to the diffuser plate as a substitute 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 measurement quantum dots emit totally different wavelengths. Or to place it one other means, some dots emit crimson mild, others inexperienced, and others nonetheless, blue. There are extra prospects, 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 coloration 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 coloration, larger 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 crimson 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 associate Sony’s) QD-OLED TVs have among the greatest picture high quality of any TV ever. 

Till now, quantum dots have been at all times 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 so far are what’s known as “photoluminescent.” They soak up mild, then emit mild. With LED LCD TVs, this normally meant LEDs emitting blue mild. This blue mild can be the blue mild you’d see on the TV, however it was additionally used to trigger crimson and inexperienced quantum dots to emit their very own coloured mild. So what you’d see on display is blue mild from the LEDs, and crimson and inexperienced mild from the quantum dots, all combining to assist create a picture. There are a selection of the way to implement this course of, however that is the fundamental thought. 

A diagram of an electroluminescent quantum dot display.

Direct view, electroluminescent quantum dot shows. You possibly can consider it like a standard LED LCD or OLED show, however as a substitute of LCD or OLED pixels, it is pixels manufactured from simply quantum dots. Observe 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 mild to excite quantum dots into emitting mild, it makes use of electrical energy. Nothing however quantum dots. Electroluminescent, aka direct-view, quantum dots. That is enormous. 

Or a minimum of, has the potential to be enormous. Theoretically, it will imply thinner, extra energy-efficient shows. It means shows that may be simpler, as in cheaper, to fabricate. That might imply even cheaper, extra environment friendly, bigger-screen TVs. The potential in image high quality is a minimum of 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 cellphone 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 crammed with “LED” issues and I feel it is a bit of a stretch to ask the typical particular person to know “nano” is totally different from “micro” and “mini.” However hey, if I used to be good at advertising, I might be loads higher paid. 

The sci-fi future

The potential with TVs and cellphone screens is thrilling, however that is not the place the potential of electroluminescent QD ends. Having what quantities to an easier show construction, you possibly can incorporate QD-based shows in a greater variety of conditions. Or extra particularly, on a greater variety of surfaces. Basically, you possibly can print a complete QD show onto a floor with out the warmth required by different “printable” tech. 

What does this imply? Nearly any flat or curved floor might be a display. This has lengthy been the promise of quite a lot of applied sciences, to not point out numerous sci-fi reveals and flicks, however electroluminescent QD has the potential to really make it occur.

As an example, you can incorporate a display onto the windshield of a automobile for a extra elaborate, high-resolution, easy-to-see, heads-up show. Pace 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. These kinds of QD-displays might have a light-weight transmission of 95%, that 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 attainable use for electroluminescent quantum dots.

James Martin/

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

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Just about any floor might work like this. I feel an apparent early use, regardless of how annoying it might be, can be bus or subway home windows. These will initially be pitched by cities as a option to present folks essential data, however inevitably they will be used for promoting. That is actually not a knock in opposition to the tech, simply how issues work on the earth.

Past the quantum realm

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

A closeup of a pixel from a quantum dot coloration 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 strong historical past, and works with the most important names within the manufacturing world. That is what they have been working in direction of for years. It was at all times on the fringe of the timeline they’d share yearly. After 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. Just a few years after that, they talked about including QD to OLED. Now these are right here. QD by itself, direct-view electroluminescent QD, was at all times their purpose. And now it is right here. 

Effectively, form 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 measurement we’ll see initially. Telephones and VR headsets first, then TVs later? Could possibly be. TV manufacturing amenities are costly to construct, and corporations aren’t going to wish to convert or shut older factories earlier than getting a full return on funding. So it is doubtless 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 can be even higher. However 5-10 years from now we’ll nearly actually have choices for QD shows in our telephones, in all probability in our dwelling rooms, and probably on our windshields and home windows. 

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

In addition to masking TV and different show tech, Geoff does photograph excursions of cool museums and places around the globe, together with nuclear submarines, large plane carriers, medieval castles, epic 10,000-mile highway journeys and extra. Take a look at Tech Treks for all his excursions and adventures.

He wrote a bestselling sci-fi novel about city-size submarines and a sequel. You possibly can observe his adventures on Instagram and his YouTube channel.

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