Thanks to technological advancements, cutting-edge quantum dot televisions now a third of the price

When the latest quantum dot high definition TVs were unveiled, they wowed consumers with their precision, vivid colors and the bright display. The only problem? Since they used cutting-edge technology, they were pretty expensive. But like many technologies, quantum dot TVs have advanced: today, manufacturers have become more efficient in making and coating the dots to create the same high performance TVs. As a result, the market has rapidly expanded with numerous brands getting in on the action. This has greatly reduced the cost for consumers. In fact, the same TV is about one third of the price it was in 2018! 

What is a quantum dot TV - and how do the dots work? 

A quantum dot is a geometrically defined nanocrystal (only 10 to 15 atoms in diameter!) acting as a semiconductor. When used in TV displays, it can act as an optical tuner that converts the color of the light emitted by modifying the light’s wavelength. This is due to the quantum dot’s quantum mechanical properties. In a nutshell, with this nanocrystal technology, increasingly larger dots will change light from blue to red along the spectrum. In a quantum dot TV, the dots are placed in front of a blue light source and they modify the colors to create an image. “It is the collection of points of light that make the image,” explains Jeffrey Kolpa, Global Marketing Director at the Phosphorus Specialties business line of Solvay’s Technology Solutions global business unit. “For instance, think of Georges Seurat's painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Each QD gives off a dot of light like the dots of paint in this particular painting. When the dots are combined you have a stunningly tuned image,” Kolpa added. 

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The stability and performance of the quantum dots is constantly improving through development work being conducted by both nanoparticle and display manufacturers. As a result, the cost of the technology per screen has been reduced dramatically.

How are quantum dots made? 

Phosphorus is the magic ingredient, and many of the high definition TVs on the market today use Solvay’s phosphine derivatives to create the quantum dots.

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Quantum dots rely on a cocktail of several chemical elements including metal precursors, organic ligands and phosphorus chemistry. As you can imagine, the manufacturing process is quite complex. They are made by combining semiconductor precursors, solvents and surfactants together at high temperature – which generally is generally done using phosphorus-based, high-boiling solvents such as trioctylphosphine (TOP). Other phosphorus derivatives also serve as ligands that bind strongly to the outer sphere of the nanoparticles. Additionally, more sophisticated materials act as the phosphorus source for indium phosphide based quantum dots.

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Phosphorus solutions since the 1850s 

Solvay’s Phosphorus Specialties group originated with Albright & Wilson (a British company that started producing phosphorus in the 1850s), which eventually became part of Solvay. So it’s no surprise that Solvay has a deep understanding of the chemistry of this particular element, long serving niche applications such as post-harvest fumigation, phosphorus compounds for life sciences or biocides for the oil & gas industry. When electronics manufacturers first developed quantum dot displays in the early 2000s and needed the phosphine compounds to build them, they naturally turned to Solvay’s Phosphorus Specialties group.

Solvay’s CYTOP® family comprises a wide range of phosphine derivatives owing its name to the chemistry behind them. In the television display space, CYTOP® 380HP and CYTOP® 250 are two key products used to commercially make quantum dots, the former as a solvent and ligand, the latter as the very core of the dot. These liquids play a significant role in the formation of the nanocrystals. Solvay sells its CYTOP® products to quantum dot manufacturers, who sell the quantum dots often on a film to display manufacturers, who in turn sell the displays to electronics manufacturers.

Quantum Dot TVs are now being offered by multiple brands including Samsung (QLED), TCL (6 Series) and Vizio (M Series & P Series).

It's exciting to see the market expand with this new TV technology, and now that the TVs are becoming more affordable, even more people can enjoy the bright and beautiful colors that can only be created by quantum dots!