New generation of LED lighting is thought to produce a more user-friendly white light and will use less toxic materials. Furthermore, LED lights will be manufactured in a more cost-efficient way, relying on a simple microwave heating. Quite possibly, this all will be achieved thanks to new manufacturing technology of “quantum dots”, currently being developed at Oregon State University.
Not only this technology should make LED lighting more attractive to customers, it should also reduce average spending on lighting in half, compared to the usual incandescent and fluorescent lighting.
Microwave ovens are part of most modern kitchens and now conceptually similar technology will help producing solid state lighting systems, which will feature user-friendly white light. Microwave heating technology will be used together with something called a “continuous flow” chemical reactor, which is fast, cheap, energy efficient and will significantly reduce manufacturing costs.
Microwave heating technology will tackle problem, which was holding back the progress of similar systems for a long time. It will allow for precise control of heat needed during the process. It will help developing nanoparticles that are exactly the right size, shape and composition. In fact, this technology in the future may be used in a wide variety of other devices, such as displays, computer screens, smart phones, televisions and other systems.
However, scientists note that the most important goal of “quantum dots” technology is to develop novel LED lighting systems. Professor Greg Herman, one of the authors of the study, said – “We may finally be able to produce low cost, energy efficient LED lighting with the soft quality of white light that people really want”. He added: “At the same time, this technology will use nontoxic materials and dramatically reduce the waste of the materials that are used, which translates to lower cost and environmental protection.” These advancements are very significant, because current LED lighting technology uses toxic materials and rarely produce attractive light.
The best current LED lighting systems sometimes use cadmium, which is highly toxic. However, this new technology currently being tested relies on copper indium diselenide instead, which is a much more benign material with high energy conversion efficiency. Technology in short is called “quantum dots” – they are nanoparticles that can be used to emit light. The colour of the light can be controlled by altering the size of the particle.
Quantum dots are not entirely new – they have been used for some time already, but technology lacked precision in colour control and was rather expensive. Manufacturing technologies currently being developed at the Oregon State University are scalable, solve colour control problems and offer low cost production possibilities. Therefore, it looks like slow, expensive, sometimes toxic and often wasteful production of quantum dots is nearing to the end in favour of more advanced manufacturing methods.
Quantum dots may solve other everyday problems as well. For example, short battery life – phones and other portable electronic devices might use less power and last much longer on a charge if they used this lighting technology. Furthermore, compounds with specific infrared or visible light emissions, known as “taggants”, may be used for precise and instant identification, including control of counterfeit bills or products.
Scientists are already talking with private sector about further development of this technology and possible manufacturing processes. So we will have to wait and see how quantum dots are going to be produced in the future and if it will change conventional lighting in our homes.