For the past few years OLED has stolen most of the spotlight as the next generation technology set to outperform current plasma and LCD displays in terms of both energy efficiency and picture quality. Although OLED is barely out of the blocks, QD Vision and LG Display have just announced a joint development agreement focusing on electroluminescent quantum dot LED (QLED) nanotechnology, which promises to sweep all display technologies before it, including OLED. QLED promises energy efficient displays that offer brighter, richer colors, can be printed on ultra-thin, transparent or flexible substrates and manufactured cheaply.

Way back in 2004 QD Vision took out first place in the International Nanotechnology Business Idea Competition with its idea to produce flat panel displays that use QLEDs to produce images. The prize pack consisting of US$50,000 cash, business plan writing assistance and additional business advisory services allowed the startup company to secure the intellectual property behind the QLED technology that was developed at MIT.

QD Vision’s QLED technology, which it should be stressed, is still in the development stage, will employ patterned thin films of quantum dots – a particle about one nanometer in size that has the display properties of a semiconductor – to create a direct-view, active matrix display.

The company says its current printable saturated QLEDs essentially match or exceed NTSC color standards for displays without the need for color filters. Also, because current OLED displays require lossy color filtering to achieve the same color performance, QLEDs ultimately offer a 30–40 percent luminance efficiency advantage over OLEDs at the same color point. QLEDs also have the potential to be more than twice as power efficient as OLEDs at the same color purity.

Additionally, because quantum dots can be processed in solution without the need for color filters or a backlight they are cheaper and simpler to manufacture than competing display technologies. And unlike LCD displays or LED chips that are fabricated on glass and crystalline substrates making them expensive and fragile for mobile and large area applications, QLEDs are only a couple of nanometers thick. This makes them virtually transparent and flexible and suitable for integration onto a variety of surfaces.

The joint development agreement between QD Vision and LG Display suggests LG is hedging its bets when it comes to next generation display technologies. The company has already released a 15-inch OLED TV and has announced plans to extend its OLED lineup next year, but the sets remain hideously expensive at this stage.

If QLED displays live up to their promise and they can be brought to market quickly enough, OLED could be facing some opposition from a superior technology before companies have even had time to recoup their OLED research and development costs.