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Samsung Buys QD Vision's IP for $70M and the Future of Quantum Dots

Awardee Story Samsung Buys QD Vision's IP for $70M and the Future of Quantum Dots
Date: Dec 03, 2016
Author: Ross Young
Source: DisplaySupplyChain ( click here to go to the source)

In a strategic move to support the long-term vision of its display, TV and possibly other businesses, Samsung has reached an agreement to acquire QD Vision's intellectual property for approximately $70M. This story has been reported by Korea's ETNews, the web site SamMobile.com and elsewhere as an acquisition of QD Vision, but that is not accurate. It is only the IP, which consists of approximately 250 patents and patents pending as well as trademarks, which Samsung will be acquiring. When asked about the QD Vision IP, SamMobile quoted Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology CEO Jung Chil-hee who told reporters that QD Vision's IP will become part of Samsung's R&D efforts to produce increasingly advanced implementations of quantum dot (QD) TVs to compete with OLED TVs. We believe QD TVs have a bright future and I will talk about that shortly. However, first, let's discuss what this means for QD Vision as well as the history of quantum dots.

Quantum dots, nanoscale particles of semiconducting material that can efficiently create highly saturated colors, were discovered by Dr. Louis Brus while working at Bell Labs in 1982. Both QD Vision and Nanosys were founded or co-founded by Dr. Brus' MIT graduate students, Dr. Paul Alivisatos in the case of Nanosys and Dr. Moungi Bawendi at QD Vision, both of whom contributed significantly to Dr. Brus' work.

Dr. Alivisatos is now Vice Chancellor for Research at UC Berkeley, Founding Director of the Kavli Energy Nanoscience Institute and Director Emeritus of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He recently won the National Medal of Science for his work on quantum dots. He studied under Brus in the early 1980s. He was the scientific co-founder of Nanosys in 2001 and also founded Quantum Dot Corp., which is now part of Life Tech.

Dr. Bawendi studied under Brus after Alivisatos and was an early scientific advisor to Nanosys from 2003. He licensed a number of his QD patents to Nanosys. Bawendi later co-founded QD Vision in 2004 along with Dr. Vladmir Bulcovic. Bawendi is currently a chemistry professor at MIT and runs a lab focused on the science and application of quantum dots. He is also the scientific founder of Quantum Dot Corp., now part of Life Tech, serves as Scientific Advisor to Lumicell and remained on the Scientific Advisory Board at QD Vision.

QD Vision was founded in 2004 and raised over $133M in 10 separate rounds from 11 different venture capital firms to commercialize QDs. The most recent round was November of 2015 at $22M. The VC firms backing QD Vision, according to Crunchbase, included BASF Venture Capital, Capricorn Investment Group, DTE Energy Ventures, Highland Capital Partners, In-Q-Tel, North Bridge Venture Partners, Novus Energy Partners, Novus Ventures, Open Innovation Ventures, Passport Capital and Tsing Capital. Unfortunately, it appears these firms will not make money on their investment.

QD Vision tried to commercialize QDs through their edge-lit quantum dot optic, Color IQ, which works with edge lit TVs and monitors. The QDs are packaged in resin in an edge lit tube placed between blue LEDs and a light guide in an edge lit backlight. QD Vision was the only company to commercialize this QD edge optic solution. According to QD Vision Co-Founder Seth Coe Sullivan, in Color IQ, concentrations of red and green converting QDs are engineered to pass tri-chromatic white light that's optimized for spectrally narrow color filters to maximize the throughput of the filters and deliver a wider color gamut as opposed to yellow phosphor LEDs found in most LED TVs which deliver a spectrally wider bichromatic light that is getting chopped into tri-chromatic light by the color filters which produce a narrower color gamut as shown in the Figure below. This results in brighter displays and a wider color gamut. The Color IQ approach uses less QD material than other approaches resulting in a lower cost solution. Sealing the QDs in a high precision glass tube acts as the barrier against moisture and oxygen. However, a significant portion of the light doesn't make it into the light guide, although some of it can be recaptured by adopting reflectors. Companies that adopted QD Vision's Color IQ included Hisense, Philips/TPVision, Seiki, Sony and TCL for TVs and Philips and AOC for monitors. In the case of TVs, while Color IQ and edge lit solutions resulted in extremely thin LCDs and a lower cost solution, the high end of the market has moved to direct lit LEDs and local dimming which aren't compatible with Color IQ. In the case of monitors, there has been some negative reviews such as by Meko which found in a Philips Color IQ monitor that the white point was well of the desired 6500 setting at 7200 -- 7400 and there was a large area of the screen that was 20% less bright than the center and slightly blue. So, QD Vision has been struggling. In fact, the Color IQ factory in Taiwan was shut down and the Philips monitor was re-designed without QDs. So, QD Vision has been struggling with its products not gaining acceptance.

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