One of the many fronts on which device manufacturers battle one another is screen resolution—each gadget maker vying to have the highest quality image display among its competitors. Typically an increase in image quality corresponds to an increase in pixel count. Nanosys, however, has developed a technology that utilizes a completely different method for improving the quality of displays.
“With LCDs, which is a very common display technology today, you have a backlight behind a panel,” explains Jason Hartlove, President and CEO of Nanosys. “That backlight produces a white light, and that white light comes through the panel where the pixels are located, and those pixels flicker on and off to let the light come through. At each location there’s a little filter, and that pixel is either a red-filtered or a green-filtered or a blue-filtered pixel. So you either get a red, green or blue color at each pixel location. Now the quality of the red, green or blue that you get depends directly on the quality of that white light you have in the back. If you lit up that display with a yellow light, and then you turned those pixels on and off, you wouldn’t get very good color. If you, on the other hand, put something in the backlight that looked like daylight, you’d get very good color. And so the challenge is how do you make a good white light in the backlight for LCD displays, and that’s really what we do.”
The existing LED technology that produces the backlight has steadily improved over the last 5 to 10 years and has become very, very efficient. The LED, however, is blue, so to make white light from the blue LED source you have to use a phosphor. Nanosys has developed a unique phosphor—the quantum dot phosphor—which, unlike the commonly used yellow, YAG phosphor, is capable of producing any color of fluorescence that a customer requires.
“By specifically controlling the synthesis process during which we make these different phosphors,” says Hartlove, “we can uniquely control those wavelengths of emission. Now by taking a very good quality of green, and mixing it with a very good quality of red, and a very good quality of blue, we can make a unique red, green, blue backlight system, which effectively is white light. But it’s very pure white light specifically designed for the display. So the color saturation that comes out, and your ability to accurately render colors is tremendously improved.”
Any color device, regardless of size, resolution, whether it’s 3D or 2D can use the Nanosys technology. “The real limitation,” explains Hartlove, “on the user experience today is that display—that end device. And so your viewable content is pretty good, but your actual ability to view it is pretty bad…Our competency is in these nano materials that have these very unique properties that allow our leading edge customers to bring new capabilities to their devices.”