News Article

Feel The Force Of The Quantum Dots

Scientists can now precisely synthesise nanocrystalline materials by systematically tuning their quantum confining behaviour by using semiconductor quantum dots. This development shows potential in the optoelectronics sector including LEDs, lasers, telecoms and detection applications.

The global market for quantum dots (QDs) in 2010 was worth an estimated $67 million in revenues. This market is projected to grow to over almost $670 million by 2015 according to Reportlinker.com.   

Optoelectronics represents one of the greatest market sectors. This area, says Reportlinker.com, was launched in 2010, and is expected to increase at a 128.4% compound annual growth rate to reach a value of $310 million in 2015.

The established market in the biomedical sector was valued at $48 million in 2010 and this sector is expected to increase at a 30% CAGR to reach a value of $179 million in 2015.

Among the many subsets of nanomaterials, quantum dots are unique. At dimensions typically below 10 nm, nanocrystalline semiconductors, metals, and magnetic materials can all exhibit extraordinary quantum confinement phenomena.  

At these dimensions, their physical size encroaches upon the fundamental quantum confinement dimensions of orbiting electrons that are uniquely prescribed by their atomic nucleus. Within the regime of these critical dimensions, QDs exhibit distinctly different behaviour from their bulk form, which manifests itself, for example, in distinctly different optical, electronic and magnetic properties.

Today, scientists can precisely synthesise nanocrystalline materials at these dimensions and systematically tune their quantum confining behaviour.   As a result, there is currently enormous interest in exploiting and capitalising on the unique properties exhibited by QD materials.  

As a harbinger for future business developments, colloidal QD-bioconjugates are among the first wave of commercial product applications stimulating market interest. Primarily, these have quickly established a niche market in the life sciences and biomedical communities, where they provide unrivalled cellular imaging and therapeutic detection capabilities.  

Other promising prototype developments of semiconductor QDs, now on the commercial-horizon, include a new generation of flash memory devices, nanomaterial enhancements for improving the performance of solid-state white-LED lighting and a core technology used in flexible solar panel coatings.

Since their simultaneous discovery in Russia and the U.S. almost 30 years ago, semiconductor QDs, until quite recently, have resided exclusively in the domain of solid state physics, where they have been fabricated using expensive and sophisticated MBE or CVD equipment.  

However, in a relatively short time frame, this situation has changed dramatically with the recent commercial availability of colloidal QDs synthesised by less expensive wet-chemical processes.

Practically, the availability of QDs in a colloidally dispersed form will help demystify these somewhat esoteric materials.   Most importantly, colloidal-QDs now provide access to a much broader audience, which promises to further widen their potential market exploitation.

Current and future applications of QDs impact a broad range of industrial markets.   These include optoelectronic devices such as LEDs, lasers, optical components used in telecommunications and security applications such as covert identification tagging or biowarfare detection sensors.
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