Nanosys, one of the oldest US innovators around quantum dot technology, has introduced a new material which it says is a significant breakthrough in reaching the BT.2020 spec for the wider color gamut in TVs, especially in Europe
This is a film version of the technology or Quantum Dot Enhancement Film (QDEF) for laying over LED backlights, to generate intense color when LEDs shine light through them. Most existing Quantum Dot TVs which have been grabbing the UHD headlines, have come through shining Quantum Dot lights from the side of the screen to create backlighting, currently seen as a much cheaper and slightly inferior version than using film.
That main protagonist behind that technology was QD Vision, a company that Nanosys has recently named in a patent infringement suit, filed in April in the US District Court of the Northern District of California. At the time Nanosys claimed that “QD Vision is a poor imitator using technology stolen from Nanosys to produce cheap knockoffs. When QD Vision’s own technology failed, the company chose infringing on Nanosys’ patents over taking the time to innovate”
Quantum Dots are tiny nanometer sized particles, which give out pure colored light – which color depends on their precise size – and they are made in slightly varying sizes to give off pure reds, greens and blues. They do not give off white light which is then filtered and that means they use far less energy than systems which do.
They are seen as a short cut to the type of color performance that Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLED) has promised for over 20 years. Today OLED technology when aimed at large screens such as TVs, is only really being pursued by LG in Korea. Samsung, Sony, Hisense, TCL and Philips have all introduced Quantum Dot technologies into their latest TVs, with Samsung and Sony opting for the more expensive film approach and Hisense and Philips very publicly obtaining the cheaper technology from QD Vision, but both TCL and Hisense are also buying QDEF for top end version from Nanosys.
Nanosys was formed in 2001 and worked with a number of universities, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), turning university research into Quantum Dots; QD Vision was formed in 2004 by academics from MIT. Nanosys says it holds almost 300 patents, while QD Vision cites 250 patents and says that the patent dispute is nonsense. It really depends on the words written in the contracts that Nanosys had with University Researchers and the timing of specific inventions.
This is the kind of dispute that, while passionate, investors are likely to resolve by merging the companies or cross licensing, as we are still at the early stage of exploitation of this technology, and there is little money available to spend on litigation. Nanosys has had around $157 million in funding, with the latest round coming in June last year which included an injection from Samsung. QD Vision has had around $133 million, with the latest round in November.
Nanosys is currently outputting enough Quantum Dot material to make 18 million 60-inch TVs a year.
Nanosys said this week of its new breakthrough which it calls Hyperion Quantum Dots, that it is every bit as good as the materials which use far more cadmium. It operates with almost no Cadmium and that means it does not need an exemption to the European Union’s Restriction on Hazardous Substances legislation, which Quantum Dot TVs have needed to date. The new material goes out to manufacturing partners in the third quarter with mass production expected in early 2017 and it will integrate seamlessly into existing manufacturing processes.
Nanosys says it has demonstrated over 90% BT.2020 color gamut using Hyperion Quantum Dots in a sheet of QDEF with Cadmium levels below the 100ppm limit established by the EU Directive.
In a separate announcement Hitachi Chemical says it plans to begin shipping QDEF using a Nanosys material to display manufacturers in mass production volumes during the 2nd half of 2016.
Meanwhile this week LG Electronics USA released pricing for the range of 2016 OLED TVs it has already shown at shows such as CES adding to the already released LG Signature OLED G6 and LG OLED E6 series at retailers already. OLED is the only technology which produces a potentially better picture than Quantum Dot, with a similar power usage, but OLED has been troublesome to bring down in price.
The new range of 8 models offers a complete high dynamic range (HDR) experience with support for both Dolby Vision and HDR10 with “Ultra HD Premium” certification by the UHD Alliance, as well as full wider color gamut.
The 8 models range in price from $4,000 to $8,000 and from 55 inches to 77 inches, so it looks like LG’s plan is to take a disproportionate share of the top end of the market.