On Monday, November 28th, the UK-based nanotech firm Nanoco Group (LON:NANO) announced that it had acquired a patent portfolio from Eastman Kodak (NYSE:KODK) in the field of quantum dot electroluminescent displays (QLED). The commercial terms of the deal were undisclosed at the time of the announcement. According to a statement from Nanoco CEO Michael Edelman, the acquisition reflects the company’s belief that liquid crystal display (LCD) technologies will dominate in the coming years while QLED tech could become a very valuable contender in display tech over the long term.
The recent Nanoco acquisition of Kodak’s QLED intellectual property reflects growing interest in a display technology that has been supplanting organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display tech as the future of television and other large-screen technologies. OLED displays utilize a film layer of organic compound which emits light after receiving an electric current. Because it doesn’t utilize a backlight, OLED displays can be made thinner than LCDs and work better in low ambient light conditions. OLEDs do face a number of issues which could impede their commercial success, including expensive production costs and susceptibility to burn-in of displayed images.
Whereas OLED technology is different from LCD architecture, QLED can take advantage of the basic LCD architecture which already exists to incorporate quantum dots. Using quantum dots, LCDs can achieve improved color reproduction and energy efficiency. Fully mature QLED technologies could further result in the ability to turn individual pixels off, improving contrast and color quality. QLED is attracting some interest from major corporations in the consumer electronics industry, including Samsung Electronics (KRX:005930), which confirmed this year that it is working with QLED technologies for television production.
According to the patent portfolio tools available through Innography, Nanoco owns 132 U.S. intellectual property assets, including 89 patent applications and 43 patent grants. As the text cluster here will show readers, much of Nanoco’s research and development has focused upon semiconductor materials and nanoparticle precursors, although Nanoco does hold some U.S. IP in the field of quantum dots (QDs).
Nanoco’s official website online describes the QLED technologies developed by the company as cadmium and heavy-metal free quantum dots. The QDs being developed by Nanoco measure about 1/1000th of the width of a human hair. The QDs are designed so that they don’t use either heavy metals or cadmium, substances which are heavily regulated by European Union environmental regulations. To produce the dots, Nanoco has developed a molecular seeding process in which particles are grown under moderate temperatures in such a way that can be scaled up for large volume manufacture. According to the press release on the recent acquisition of Kodak’s patents, Nanoco has been involved in QLED research for about a decade.
Nanoco has already been finding corporate partners interested in using the company’s QLED nanotechnology. In early August, media reports indicated that German chemical giant Merck Group (ETR:MRK) had signed a non-exclusive licensing deal to use Nanoco’s quantum dots in display applications. This deal occurred in the days after Nanoco signed its first such non-exclusive licensing deal for the QD tech with Taiwan’s Wah Hong Industrial Corporation, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of optical films and sheets for display.