The next generation of LED lights could be energy efficient and nontoxic, while producing a softer white light than typical LEDs. This is possible because researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) developed a new manufacturing technique for quantum dots, the nanoparticles made of semiconductor materials that can be used to emit light. By precisely controlling the size of the particle, manufacturers can control the color of the light. Previous techniques have not gotten the color quite right, or they have been expensive, slow, wasteful, and toxic.
The new approach uses copper indium diselenide, a benign material with high energy conversion efficiency. The technique combines a “continuous flow” chemical reactor with microwave heating technology, which helps to precisely control the heat needed during the process. This allowed the researchers to create nanoparticles that are exactly the right size, shape and composition for soft white light.
The ability to create quantum dots efficiently and precisely creates potential applications for optics, electronic displays, and medicine, as well as everyday lighting. “There are a variety of products and technologies that quantum dots can be applied to, but for mass consumer use, possibly the most important is improved LED lighting,” said OSU researcher Greg Herman. He continued, “We may finally be able to produce low cost, energy efficient LED lighting with the soft quality of white light that people really want. At the same time, this technology will use nontoxic materials and dramatically reduce the waste of the materials that are used, which translates to lower cost and environmental protection.”