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Nanosys raises $15M to use ‘quantum dots’ to make displays 50 percent brighter

Nanosys said today it has raised $15 million in a sixth round of funding to expand its manufacturing of materials that enable displays with vivid colors.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based maker of nanotechnology materials — or materials that have unique properties at a scale of a billionth of a meter — will use the investment to expand its manufacturing capacity tenfold. The company makes Quantum Dot Enhancement Film (QDEF), which improves the vividness of color and power efficiency of liquid crystal displays, which are used in everything from tablets to big-screen TVs.

Nanosys was founded in 2001 to create a real business from the far-out science of nanotechnology, or manufacturing molecules on an atomic level. For years, the company searched for different kinds of applications for the cool technology, and QDEF came from its patented research into quantum dot technology. The QDEF material increases the color gamut in a display by as much as three times without any increase in cost, size, or power consumption. The result is richer and more viscerally vibrant colors such as deeper reds and greens, which are colors the human eye sees more intensely than others. If it succeeds, Nanosys can grab a chunk of the LCD display market, which generates tens of billions of dollars in revenue each year.

“You’ve never seen anything like a quantum dot display,” said Jason Hartlove, president and chief executive of Nanosys. “We are working with display makers to create a new high color gamut display experience that is cheaper, more efficient, and more reliable than anything else currently on the market. The response from manufacturers so far has been great, and demand for QDEF has grown to the point that we’ll need to expand manufacturing to keep up.”

Larger than a water molecule, but 10,000 times narrower than a human hair, the Nanosys quantum dots can convert blue light from a standard gallium nitride LED into different wavelengths based on their size. Larger dots emit longer wavelengths (red), while smaller dots emit shorter wavelengths (green). Blending together a mix of dot colors allows Nanosys to engineer a new spectrum of light.

Nanosys basically adds a new layer of material to an LCD screen during manufacturing. This allows LCD manufacturers to accurately match their LED backlight to their LCD color filters to achieve the best possible color and efficiency performance. And that means the colors you see on a screen can look much more like what you see in real life.