QustomDot is developing cadmium-free quantum dots that are stable enough for advanced applications.
QustomDot is developing cadmium-free quantum dots (QDs) that are stable enough for advanced applications. QDs are semiconductor particles with a diameter of a couple of nanometers, or about 1/10 000th the width of a hair. By tuning their exact size, these nanoparticles can be made to ‘convert’ blue or UV light into a very precise different color of light. QDs are finding their way into TVs, where they produce a higher-resolution image with more pristine colors all while consuming less energy. Beyond TVs, the technology could become widely adopted in computer displays and mobile phones, as well as in more leading-edge applications such as virtual/augmented reality goggles and transparent displays.
While QDs harbor the potential to disrupt the display industry, application of commercially available QDs is hampered by significant drawbacks. Either they are based on cadmium, a toxic heavy metal restricted in use by the European Commission, or they suffer from great instability under illumination and degradation at high temperatures. Therefore, the existing QDs must be physically separated from the light source in most applications, which is associated with a complicated production process and inefficiencies. QustomDot will remove the need for this physical separation, without using restricted materials.
We really wanted to see our research applied and bring quantum dots into the spotlight.
QustomDot’s technology is the culmination of many years of research by the lab of Prof. Zeger Hens, which is part of the Physics and Chemistry of Nanostructures research group of Ghent University. This group of about 20 scientists has a strong focus on the development of QDs. The time horizon and multidisciplinary expertise required to advance this type of R&D makes QustomDot a remarkable endeavor. One of the driving forces behind the spin-off was Kim De Nolf, QustomDot’s CEO and former PhD student in Zeger’s lab. When the group discovered a way to synthesize their unique QDs at full yield (and thus in a cost-effective manner), Kim and the other co-founders were eager to translate this exciting research into something tangible. As she elaborates “We recognized the technology’s vast potential, for displays and far beyond, and decided to valorize it. We really wanted to see our research applied and bring quantum dots into the spotlight.”
The more you talk about your ideas with other people, the more these ideas take shape.
In tailoring the company’s commercial strategy, the team relied on their investors as a sounding board. According to Kim “The more you talk about your ideas with other people, the more these ideas take shape. Talking to Qbic in a very early stage proved valuable. They helped us to see things from a different point of view. We were post-docs still learning about entrepreneurship and Qbic gave us direction. QustomDot would not have become what it is today without the very in-depth journey with Qbic.” Zeger adds “The investors compel the team to also implement short-term goals. It is important to not just focus on the long-term, you must find the right balance. They also provide access to a network of people with affinity for the domain.”
There used to be the bulky CRT TVs, and then they were all replaced by flatscreen TVs. Similarly, microLED displays could take out all the currently available display types.
Being able to use QustomDot’s QDs directly onto a LED makes them very well-suited for emerging applications such as microLED displays. MicroLEDs enable the next generation of displays, and QustomDot aims to help pave the way. As Kim explains “There used to be the bulky CRT TVs, and then they were all replaced by flatscreen TVs. Similarly, microLED displays could take out all the currently available display types. It would be great if QustomDot could facilitate this.”
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