Several years ago, I met a fellow scientist at a job fair in Atlanta. He seemed quite laid-back, but struck me as incredibly intelligent. He spoke passionately about the company for which he was recruiting – QD Vision – a start-up based near Boston that proposed using quantum dots as the active component in LEDs. We had an enjoyable conversation, and he was kind enough and I suppose impressed enough to offer me a job. In retrospect, not taking that position was one of the largest mistakes in my career. I turned it down for personal reasons – health of a family member who was living nearby – but I still feel a twinge of regret to this day. QD Vision has beaten the odds and hit it big. Their quantum dots aren’t just abstract concepts, or work in progress – they’re on the market already. Incredible.
Quantum dots are simply small (tiny – 5 to 50 nanometers in size, typically) specks of semiconductors. Because of their size regime, they take on special properties. It gets slightly technical to describe, but essentially something called the “quantum confinement” effect takes over and different sized dots – comprised of the same material, just different in size – take on different colors. Even better, because these materials are made from semiconductors, they can be made to glow – not a broad spectrum like a light bulb, but in very strictly defined color ranges dependent on their size.
QD Vision has developed technology that involves, according to Dr. Coe-Sullivan, only 3 steps from start to finish. A researcher can walk into their laboratory, and in a very short period of time, have marketable material being shipped out the door. These materials are attractive because they use conventional, easy-available materials; the process doesn’t require expensive, advanced technology to produce; the resulting light-emitting devices (LEDs) have a high efficiency, require low power, and less LEDs are required to produce a stronger, more intense light output (measured in lumens).
This technology is breathtaking. It look a leap of faith, and I wish my personal life had allowed me to take it with them. It was a team of less than a dozen, starting up – I met them all, in Boston, and it was clear that they had faith in their vision. It very easily could have failed. Instead, the remarkable scientists at QD Vision have taken an idea and transformed it into a profitable, marketable solution – something that any business owner will tell you is worth at least a case of champagne.
I’ve included images throughout this article, courtesy of Dr. Coe-Sullivan, that show actual examples of the types of products his company (www.qdvision.com) is producing. The technology deserves that highest level of praise from one scientist to another: “elegant”. No doubt QD Visions technology will continue to be incorporated into products we come into contact with every day, and our lives will be enriched as a result.