What the heck are quantum dots? And why would you want them in your TV?

    The technology, used by LG and others, is designed to produce better, more vibrant colors

    Published: December 16, 2014 10:40 AM
    LG will use quantum dots to improve the color performance of its UHD TVs.

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    Quantum dots (QDs) are poised to become the next big in TV technology. LG Electronics and several other TV manufacturers, including TCL are about to make TVs using this new technology, which will be one of the headlines at next month's Consumer Electronics Show.

    How does quantum dot technology work? Red and green quantum dots—nano crystals—are embedded in a film that's sandwiched between the other layers of the LCD panel, directly in front of the LED backlight. (QDs can also be placed inside a glass tube, or rail, in front of the LEDs.) When these tiny crystals are hit with a blue light from the backlight, they glow, emitting very saturated, narrow-band primary colors, based on the size and composition of the quantum dot material. Because the size of the crystals can be controlled very precisely, colors can be made very accurate.

    What does all of that tech talk mean to you? QDs can help LCD TVs produce better, more vibrant color than you get with regular LCDs.

    We'll have to wait and see what effect quantum dot technology has on OLED TV development. QD sets might be able to produce great colors, but as LCD TVs they have shortcomings in areas such as black levels, contrast ratios, response times and refresh rates, and viewing angles.

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    QD technology isn't actually new—Sony has used a version of quantum dot technology in some of its Triluminous TVs since late 2013. But in 2015 we expect quantum dot technology to become more popular as manufacturers position it as a way of achieving OLED-like colors at a much lower cost.

    LG says it will offer 55- and 65-inch UHD sets with quantum dots next year. TCL will sell a 55-inch UHD TV with QD in China but hasn't said whether the TV will be available in the U.S.

    Be sure to check for more CES 2015 coverage in the coming weeks.

    —James K. Willcox

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