Quantum dots. Sound cool, don’t they? But for once this is a technology that’s actually as good as it sounds. Quantum dots, among other things, have the potential to revitalize the LCD screens in our phones, tablets, TVs and laptops.
What are quantum dots?
Simplifying things, quantum dots are incredibly small particles. They range between 2 to 10 nanometers in diameter, which is equivalent to 50 atoms. Yes, atoms. You can’t measure these things using your old school shatter proof ruler. It’s this small size that gives quantum dots the unique properties to improve our tech.
The color light that a quantum dot emits is directly related to its size; smaller dots appear blue, larger ones more red. In LCD screens they’re applied as a way of eliminating the need for White LED backlights and color filters.
What are the benefits of quantum dots?
For LCD screens, the benefits are numerous. They’re the kind of benefits that are simply no-brainers.
Higher peak brightness – One of the reasons TV manufacturers like quantum dots is that they allow them to produce TVs with much higher peak brightness. This opens up some interesting possibilities, such as enabling support for ‘high dynamic range’ TVs that support standards such as Dolby Vision.
In simple terms, Dolby Vision is a film standard that, when used, results in content that retains more color and contrast information than existing standards. The result is pictures that have greater differences in the brightest and darkest parts of the image and look more ‘dynamic’ and real as a result.
Imagine shots were looking into the sun actually feels like looking in to the sun for real and you get an idea. To do this you need brighter TVs and quantum dots deliver exactly that.
Following the acceptance of 4K resolutions, HDR in general is the next big feature of TVs, and all of the top TV sets announced at CES 2016 this year have made bold claims about their ‘high dynamic range’ capabilities. Quantum Dot technology, like OLED, goes hand in hand with this advance.
Better color accuracy – Another big benefit of quantum dots is improved color accuracy. The light produced by quantum dots is so closely tied to their size that they can be tuned very precisely to emit the exact kind of light needed. This means purer, cleaner whites and more precise colors.
Higher color saturation – One advantage, though some might call it a disadvantage in some contexts, of OLED screens over LCDs is color saturation. Colors on OLED screens simply ‘pop’ more due to the huge color gamut OLED screens can achieve.
This is great, but it’s the combination of high color and great accuracy that’s really exciting. OLED screens look fantastic to the untrained eye, but many of those found in phones aren’t very accurate or ‘faithful’ to the actual colors they’re presenting.
Improved battery life in mobile gadgets – One of the contradictions of modern tech is that people say they want better battery life, but when it comes to it they’ll choose a slimmer and sleeker phone over a chunky one with better battery life. Some of you reading this will be jumping up and down saying that’s not you, but it is most people. Phones haven’t been getting slimmer and lighter by accident. Companies make them that way because that’s what sells.
What are the downsides of quantum dots?
While there are doubtless plenty of complexities in integrating quantum dots into screens, from an end user perspective the only downside we’ve seen thus far is (an actually quite serious) light bleed issue. This was seen on the aforementioned Kindle HDX tablets, which were the first quantum dot tablets.
Should you be excited about quantum dot technology?
Definitely, yes. While a sharper picture is great, dynamic contrast – the difference between the brightest and darkest part of picture – has a huge impact on the viewing experience. Quantum dots give LCD TVs the color depth and contrast to move our viewing experience forward. So next time you buy an LCD TV, you’ll want one with quantum dots in it.