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U of Illinois QD 150807131233_1_540x360 Large-area integration of quantum dots, photonic crystals produce brighter and more efficient light.

Recently, quantum dots (QDs)–nano-sized semiconductor particles that produce bright, sharp, color light–have moved from the research lab into commercial products like high-end TVs, e-readers, laptops, and even some LED lighting. However, QDs are expensive to make so there’s a push to improve their performance and efficiency, while lowering their fabrication costs.

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have produced some promising results toward that goal, developing a new method to extract more efficient and polarized light from quantum dots (QDs) over a large-scale area. Their method, which combines QD and photonic crystal technology, could lead to brighter and more efficient mobile phone, tablet, and computer displays, as well as enhanced LED lighting.

With funding from the Dow Chemical Company, the research team, led by Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE) Professor Brian Cunningham, Chemistry Professor Ralph Nuzzo, and Mechanical Science & Engineering Professor Andrew Alleyne, embedded QDs in novel polymer materials that retain strong quantum efficiency. They then used electrohydrodynamic jet (e-jet) printing technology to precisely print the QD-embedded polymers onto photonic crystal structures. This precision eliminates wasted QDs, which are expensive to make.

These photonic crystals limit the direction that the QD-generated light is emitted, meaning they produce polarized light, which is more intense than normal QD light output.

According to Gloria See, an ECE graduate student and lead author of the research reported in Applied Physics Letters, their replica molded photonic crystals could someday lead to brighter, less expensive, and more efficient displays. “Since screens consume large amounts of energy in devices like laptops, phones, and tablets, our approach could have a huge impact on energy consumption and battery life,” she noted.

“If you start with polarized light, then you double your optical efficiency,” See explained. “If you put the photonic-crystal-enhanced quantum dot into a device like a phone or computer, then the battery will last much longer because the display would only draw half as much power as conventional displays.”

To demonstrate the technology, See fabricated a novel 1mm device (aka Robot Man) made of yellow photonic-crystal-enhanced QDs. The device is made of thousands of quantum dots, each measuring about six nanometers.

“We made a tiny device, but the process can easily be scaled up to large flexible plastic sheets,” See said. “We make one expensive ‘master’ molding template that must be designed very precisely, but we can use the template to produce thousands of replicas very quickly and cheaply.”

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Illinois College of Engineering. The original item was written by Laura Schmitt. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Gloria G. See, Lu Xu, Erick Sutanto, Andrew G. Alleyne, Ralph G. Nuzzo, Brian T. Cunningham. Polarized quantum dot emission in electrohydrodynamic jet printed photonic crystals. Applied Physics Letters, 2015; 107 (5): 051101 DOI: 10.1063/1.4927648

T Sargent Perovskites Ted Sargent at the University of Toronto has built a reputation over the years as being a prominent advocate for the use of quantum dots in photovoltaics. Sargent has even penned a piece for IEEE Spectrum covering the topic, and this blog has covered his record breaking efforts at boosting the conversion efficiency of quantum dot-based photovoltaics a few times.


Earlier this year, however, Sargent started to take an interest in the hot material that has the photovoltaics community buzzing: perovskite. Now, he and his research team at the University of Toronto have combined perovskite and quantum dots  into a hybrid that they believe could transform LED technology.

In research published in the journal Nature, Sargent’s team describes how they developed a way to embed the quantum dots in the perovskite so that electrons are funneled into the quantum dots, which then convert electricity into light.

graphenequan 061615 The first graphene quantum dot light-emitting diodes (GQD-LEDs), fabricated by using high-quantum-yield graphene quantum dots through graphite intercalation compounds, exhibit luminance in excess of 1,000 cd/m2.

Graphene is a 2D carbon nanomaterial with many fascinating properties that can enable to creation of next-generation electronics. However, it is known that graphene is not applicable to due to its lack of an electronic band gap. On the other hand, graphene (GQDs), which are merely a few nanometers large in the lateral dimension, are shown to emit light upon excitation in the visible spectral range. The GQDs have attracted a great deal of attention as a next-generation luminescent material for their outstanding properties: tunable luminescence, superior photostability, low toxicity, and chemical resistance.

Recently, Prof. Seokwoo Jeon (Material Science and Engineering), Prof. Yong-Hoon Cho (Physics), and Prof. Seunghyup Yoo (Electrical Engineering) have succeeded in developing LEDs based on . Highly pure GQDs were synthesized by an environmentally-friendly method designed by Prof. Jeon’s group, their light-emitting mechanisms were carefully studied by Prof. Cho’s group with their transient spectroscopic technique, and finally Prof. Yoo’s group brought their OLED expertise to create GQD-based LEDs.

graphenequan 061615

Electroluminescent images of GQD-LEDs (left) and luminescence efficiency of GQD-LEDs (right). Credit: KAIST 

The GQDs with high luminance tunability and efficiency were synthesized by a route based on graphite intercalation compounds (GICs). The proposed method is cost-effective, eco-friendly, and scalable, as it allows direct fabrication of GQDs using water without surfactant or chemical solvent.

GQDs were then used as emitters in (OLEDs) in order to identify the GQD’s key optical properties. After carefully designing the layer configuration so that electron and hole injection could be balanced, the constructed GQD LEDs exhibited luminance of 1,000 cd/m2, which is well over the typical brightness levels of the portable displays used in smartphones. Considering how thin GQDs are, a foldable paper-like display could soon become a reality.

Graphene quantum dot LEDs
A schematic illustration of the preparation method of highly efficient GQDs (left) and an image of GQDs dispersed in water (right). Credit: KAIST

The present work, for the first time, demonstrated that GQDs can be applied to optical devices by fabricating GQD-based LEDs with meaningful brightness. Although, the efficiency of GQD-based LEDs is currently less than those of conventional LEDs, they are expected to improve in the near future with an optimized material process and device structure.

This research was published as a cover article in Advanced Optical Materials (Vol.2, 1016-1023 (2014)), a premier journal that features significant advances in optical materials and devices based upon them.

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