Is an atom-sized crystal dot the answer to some of our biggest problems? From solar energy to cancer research, quantum dot technology has huge potential to improve our lives.
Charging a phone. Switching on lights. Boiling a kettle. All of these actions require power and most of our electricity is currently powered by fossil fuels. Research, however, suggests thirty per cent of known oil and 50 per cent of gas reserves are not actually accessible. More than "80 per cent of the world's known coal reserves need to stay in the ground to avoid dangerous climate change," reported the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Clearly, we need another energy solution—and a tiny quantum dot might be the answer.
Better solar cells
A quantum dot (QD) is a nanometer-scale crystal so minuscule it can't be seen by the naked eye. One QD is less than just 15 atoms in diameter and is extremely energy efficient due to photoactive properties that allow it to both absorb and emit light with less energy.
So, what does a QD have to do with creating sustainable energy supplies?
Solar is potentially the best solution to the energy problem. The sun ensures we have plenty of free and readily available sunlight for solar panels to soak up. The only issue lies in the inefficient power generation of solar cells. But according to Dr. Sohee Jeong of Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials (KIMM), quantum dots, "could be applied to the next generation of solar cells."
"Quantum dots can easily control the area where sunlight is absorbed, in accordance with the particle size. Because it is in liquid form, which has lower production cost, it can be easily applied to a mass manufacturing process," says Sohee. "With quantum dots and a new way of capturing the energy, we can produce more efficient and economical solar cells."
In other words, we can look forward to generating lots of power with these new quantum dot-enhanced solar cells, without greatly increasing cost.
Other than in solar panels, where else will quantum dots have a positive impact on our future?
Well, you can certainly look forward to watching vibrant and ultra-sharp reruns of your favourite TV series on Netflix. "Using quantum dots we can make colours that span the rainbow—and we can control the colours very precisely," said Dr. Alivisatos, Professor of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology at the University of California, Berkeley
It's all about how quantum dots influence the output of the colour of light. "When blue light is thrown on the liquid quantum dot, it creates a variety of colours based on its size," says Jason Hartlove, CEO of Nanosys, one of the biggest quantum dot technology companies that are currently partnered with Samsung. Quantum dot is a superior material that creates accurate, lifelike colours. Tweaking the size of the dot will change the colour–without needing to change materials.
Add their superb light efficiency, and you can prepare to be dazzled by enhanced colour every time you switch on the TV.
Imagine that same bright, high-definition video and image quality jumping out from your smartphone or tablet screen. Samsung is also working on quantum dot display screens. And we can only hope that one day this technology is applied to those massive 100-feet movie theatre screens. The future really is looking brighter.
Quantum dots and cancer
There are also expectations that quantum dot-based protein, created by combining the protein that clings to cancer cells with quantum dots, will be able to accurately detect cancer cells in the body.
Quantum dots can, "emit not only various colours from blue to red but also different infrared wavelengths, just by changing the particle sizes," says Professor Kim Sung-jee, associate professor of chemistry at Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH)."If you use different colours of quantum dots, you can look at a wide range of protein movements at the same time and accurately isolate cancer cells."
Myung Seung-jae, chief director of Biomedical Research Center at ASAN Institute for Life Sciences, is thinking along similar lines. In March 2016, he and Kim Sung-jee conducted a study of anti-cancer drugs that had been combined with quantum dots. The results showed promise for the commercialisation of quantum dots in medical treatments.
"Animals with cancer cells were injected with anti-cancer drugs that had been combined with quantum dots. The anti-cancer drug attacked only the cancer cells and not healthy cells," said Myung. "When quantum dots met cancer cells they detected a change in potential of hydrogen (pH) then disengaged from the anti-cancer drug, leaving the drug to attack only cancer cells."
A bright future
Simply put, quantum dots are rapidly ushering in the future of technology.
President Hyun-suk Kim of Samsung Electronics Visual Display Business Division says quantum dot technology is, "developing so fast that it seems to be constantly evolving itself."
From efficient solar energy power to brighter TV and display screens, and advancement in the understanding of cancer treatments; it's exhilarating to see where these nanocrystal particles, known as quantum dots, will next help us solve some of the future's largest problems.
This article was first published as an advertisement feature on bbc.com
and was created by BBC StoryWorks,
BBC Advertising's commercial content team, on behalf of Samsung Electronics.