NanoMarkets Blog
QD Lighting?  Not So Fast
Published: October 08, 2013 Category: Advanced Materials Emerging Electronics

Because QD-based lighting technology has the potential to become a substitute for conventional LEDs, QD LEDs (QLEDs) hold significant substantial prospects in some segments of the lighting industry, and particularly in the SSL segment. Notably, what has restricted the entry of OLEDs in the general illumination lighting segment for residential and commercial applications can be effectively overcome by QLEDs in the long term.

Some of the features of QLEDs that increase their potential to replace traditional phosphor-based SSLs include:

•The ability to be applied on flexible substrates via a cost-effective manufacturing process;

• The ability to produce pure light with better energy efficiency;

• The ability to operate at low toxicity levels; and

• The ability to provide true incandescent light.

Commercial entry not likely in the immediate future: Although QD Vision launched a commercial down-lighting solution in 2010, the industry has not been able to come up with any major QD-based lighting solutions. However, NanoMarkets believes that ongoing research activities around QD-based SSL lighting in the U.S. and Europe will enable some of the leading start-ups to eventually break the commercial barrier in the lighting market.
Role of governments: Industry attraction can also be gained by favorable government moves, such as regulatory bans on the use of incandescent lights that have been adopted by major developed nations and government-based financial support to the research community. NanoMarkets believes that such moves might spur innovation in a field that has few commercially viable products.

Because QDs have the potential to pass on significant energy saving benefits to end users, the QD industry should consider the lighting domain as a lucrative consumer segment. The industry should also take note of the significant emphasis of the U.S. Department of Energy on QD-based lighting research, such as the initiatives at the University of Buffalo and the University of California.

Manufacturing process continues to be a major hindrance: What might hinder the commercial launch of QDs in the lighting segment is their high cost of manufacture, which makes it difficult for QD manufacturers to achieve economies of scale.

Despite the growing interest in the lighting industry in QDs as a possible next step beyond LEDs, manufacturers and the scientific community have yet to make any significant impact in the QD lighting space. Thus, QD manufacturers need to scientifically establish and cross the cost-benefit barrier established by LEDs in order to be competitive in the lighting segment.

NanoMarkets believes that, given the right incentives, QD lighting solution providers have the potential to come up with innovative and cost-effective fabrication techniques for the production of commercial products. NanoMarkets also feels that the significant regulatory push towards rapid adoption of LEDs in the coming years will create an ideal market for QD-based lighting solution providers.

Thus, we expect the lighting industry to ramp up research efforts on this front in order to develop cost-effective mass manufacturing techniques, which will yield real benefits for the industry in the long run. At the same time, it is imperative that QD manufacturers tune their products to suit the requirements of the lighting industry.

QD manufacturers should, in particular, try to gain substantial market share in the general purpose lighting segment, which is one of the largest lighting segments and includes residential and commercial lighting. NanoMarkets believes that those QD players that can grab this market opportunity in the lighting space will benefit the most in the longer term.

Opportunities for start-ups: Start-ups have been quick to sense the opportunity and have achieved healthy progress in making QD-based lighting solutions a reality. However, just as in the display segment, QD-based lighting start-ups must depend heavily on the heavyweights in the global lighting industry, including Philips.

In addition, once QD technology establishes a strong position in the general lighting segment, entry into the value-added smart lighting segment should not be a challenge. At present, the smart lighting segment, particularly in the commercial lighting and outdoor lighting sectors in Europe and the U.S., is actively pursuing the use of LEDs. Such developments are bound to be good news for QD lighting solution providers, who view LED replacement as a potential gateway to serve the lighting industry.

NanoMarkets is of the opinion that breakthrough innovations developed by start-ups will help the QD industry at large to scale new heights in the lighting space. Partnerships and collaborations with OEMs will enable these unique nanoparticle-based lighting solutions to gain better market visibility.

At the same time, NanoMarkets believes that QD materials firms should also look beyond traditional business segments and target niche lighting categories, such as projectors, video walls, and digital signage, in the long run, as these product verticals can significantly reduce their high energy requirements through the use of energy-efficient QDs.

However, despite their significant potential, QDs have not yet attracted any significant interest from manufacturers to deploy QD technology in other lighting devices. As a result, the penetration of QDs in the lighting segment is likely to remain restricted primarily to the general-purpose illumination segment, and to a smaller extent, the smart-lighting segment.

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