Nanotech “Scaling Up” Technologies Progress

NanotechScaling Up” Technologies  Progress




A year ago I asked: why Nanotech was not yet the projected world changing technology?   I answered: ‘there are deficiencies in the scale up technology and business models so far employed.”  Interestingly this year we seem to be making progress in that key deficiency … reliably scaling up nanotech to useful sizes. What do we know now that we didn’t understand 14 years ago when the first NNI was passed or even last year?

After 14 years of $1 Billion+/year in US Government investment and over twice as much by the private sector, we do not … I repeat… we do not have a “killer” product (like a killer app) based on Nanotechnology or incorporating significant nanotech that couldn’t have been achieved in a more conventional way.  No uniquely nanotechnology company business model has been created on which to build economic wealth.  After more than a decade, one should be apparent.

The promise of nanotech was always to create or assemble what nature didn’t supply us for the benefit of civilization.  That process… new stuff for the benefit of mankind … has barely occurred… despite billions of dollars already spent. 

That seems to be changing.  At the risk of hubric punditry, the next few years will see such technological products, economic changes and a business model with which investors will feel confident.   Maybe these “next few years” nanotech developments finally will be life revolutionizing – maybe even incredibly lucrative for perceptive founders and investors.  It seems that the dream of riches from nanotech … the payoff for all this extraordinary investment, is still alive… only delayed.

It is a maxim of those of us who teach technological applications, change and innovation to grad students and seasoned executives that it takes more than a decade (maybe two) for fundamental breakthroughs in core technology to appear in revolutionary and practical ways within the mass of the developed world economy. Nanotech seems to be following that pattern.

Over the last decade… and accelerating lately … worldwide we’ve developed amazing nanoscience.  We’ve put together in the lab and in the university unique compounds that are reduced in size or created from nanotechnology building blocks to perform functions with incremental characteristics, sensitivities and accuracies before unavailable.  We’ve uncovered ways to protect or change coatings on macro sized manufactured things to improve performances.  Using nanoscience techniques, we’ve begun to re orient medicine toward diagnostics and preventive medicine as opposed to the symptoms treating medicine of the past century.  Nanotech has made ‘green’ possible.  Nanotech has made 3 D printing of materials possible. New nanosize geometries and Nano containing liquids are changing the ways in which energy is stored with huge increases in energy storage densities at ever reducing costs/kw.  Materials have been modified at the Nano level to produce amazingly useful electronic and physical product improvements.  All this is good but not sufficient.

One of the difficulties encountered has been to find a way to scale up wondrous single developments to useful macro size.  Nanotech just doesn’t scale well, making the scaling up of breakthroughs in nanoscience to macro (usable) sizes almost as difficult and expensive as the cost of the original nanoscience or nanotech development breakthroughs.  Nano-pros have failed to find ways to reproduce nanoscience breakthroughs reliably with repeated high technological performance and continuous integrity to macro size manufacturing specs.  Truthfully, there hasn’t been enough investment money devoted to this part of the nanotech development story.  Moreover, it’s not sufficient just to scale the Nano part of a development.  Economically, the entire system containing the nanotech breakthrough has to be scaled…  and technically, systems scaling is very difficult.  It’s been an expensive and hard lesson to learn.

The mass of much lionized nanotubes, both single and multiple wall, form in a spaghetti-like mixed breed mess.  This “mess’ is useless product wise.  The nanotubes have to be separated by type, separated from each other, and then oriented for use in a higher-level system. Not only is this process difficult to accomplish reliably but it also is expensive changing some of the economic promise of nanotube applications. Nanotubes are projected as the ‘next connectors’ in semiconductors.  IBM literally has to cut grooves in substrates to orient their nanotube connectors properly for testing and for prototype use.  It admits the grooves are not a solution and are searching for other ways to build nanotube-connected chips for use in its semiconductor applications.

Another area of promise in trouble is the multifunctional-targeted nanoparticle for use in anti cancer and anti human health condition solutions.  Others and I have touted these developments as opening new thresholds in medical treatment with reduced collateral damage.  In animal models and in vitro, the particles are amazingly effective … targeting and eliminating the bad stuff while inducing little ‘collateral’ damage.

However, what occurs when such ‘breakthroughs’ are introduced in the human body to improve our health as programmed is not identical.   In vivo, multifunctional particles tend to clump, not be evenly distributed and tend not to target only the sick cells… and far more than in the models… attach to normal cells with adverse consequences.  These are some of the reasons you don’t find the FDA approving many of the numerous approaches to multifunctional medical particles for trials in human use.  They don’t work as programmed and those who have invested in the promise of the original tests have taken large financial baths … sometime losing their entire investment as the company goes bankrupt.  It is far too long after the original articles in 2005 for there not to be an entire slew of these particles as products making us feel better.
Now, a more difficult issue: The economics of nanotechnology.  I have written about this subject here repeatedly.  Nanotech occurs at the lowest level of the value chain.  There is no economic margin inherent in the development of a nanotech breakthrough.  All nanotech breakthroughs have to be incorporated in a product or system upstream in the value chain or no economic reason for further development will manifest. 

Sometimes, companies have to find ‘cost avoidance’ reasons for developing a nanotech-using product.  A specific example is a company called Genomic Research… which developed a product that isolated a family of genes in a certain group of post operation breast cancer patients who could avoid expensive radiotherapy because the data showed that the radiotherapy was ineffective in preventing recurrence of the cancer.  The savings in insurance costs were successfully used to justify the economics of the Genomic Research DNA tests so that Genomic Research has current sales in excess of $400,000,000.  A true success story.  The lesson here is that with a nanotech-based product, the economic justification can come from outside the nanotech industry … few and far between.

What seems to be changing?  The original promise of nanotech called for self reproducing compounds that would automatically scale up and because they were self cloning insure that quality remained constant during the scale up and ultimate manufacture.  Recently, researchers of scale up processes have shown that combining a new compound with certain forms of DNA allow not only for movement of the compound, but also for self reproduction… so the process of Nano self reproduction is very close to realization.

The other issue… separation of similar Nano forms, that too seems to be on the verge of solution. The solution seems to be to separate the compounds in solution.  Placing the mix of nanoparticles into a properly ionized or PH’d or constructed solution for that compound has recently shown promise to purify and separate the mess that comes out of Nano manufacture.

A last example is what is happening with modified bacteria.  Making Nano stuff in bacterial soup with zillions of mini factories seems an ideal scale up solution.  Until recently, organic only reproduced organic.  But Langer’s lab at MIT spun off a company that genetically modified bacteria to produce inorganic stuff in large quantities in soups containing raw elements.  I’ll cover this company in a later article.

In conclusion there are now production system semi breakthroughs that hold promise to solve the scale up dilemma.  I’ll detail those next month.

Alan B. Shalleck
NanoClarity LLC


A New Hub for Solar Tech Blooms in Japan

QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8Tilting Toward Solar in Yokohama

Photograph by Sankei via Getty Images




What appears to be an array of metal flower petals is not an art installation but part of a cutting-edge solar-power system meant to address the critical power shortage Japan now faces in the wake of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

The disaster, which triggered a crippling nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, reignited worldwide debate about the safety of nuclear power and forced Japan to reevaluate its energy strategy.

(Related Photos: “The Nuclear Cleanup Struggle at Fukushima“)

Of Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors, 52 have been shut down for maintenance; the remaining two are set to go offline this spring. The reactors are likely to remain inoperative while Japan’s central and local governments assess which (if any) of them can be restarted, leaving the country to make up for a 30-percent loss in power generation.

(Related: “Energy-Short Japan Eyes Renewable Future, Savings Now“)

Rising electricity prices and limited supply threaten to hamper the recovery for manufacturers. So it makes sense that Solar Techno Park, the first solar-power research facility focusing on multiple technologies in Japan, is operated not by the government but by a unit of the Tokyo-based JFE, the world’s fifth-largest steelmaker. Given the energy-intensive nature of steel production, reliable power will be key to the future of Japan’s steel industry. The facility, which opened in October last year, is developing advanced technology in solar light and thermal power generation that it aims to apply both in Japan and overseas.

Located along the industrial coast of the port city of Yokohama, the Solar Techno Park aims to achieve a combined output capacity of 40 to 60 kilowatts this spring. The facility’s most notable apparatus is the HyperHelios (seen here), a photovoltaic system consisting of rows of heliostats with mirrors that follow the sun and a receiving tower. Two types of solar thermal power systems are also being developed at the park.

Yvonne Chang

Sun Plus Nanotechnology: Can Solar Energy Get Bigger by Thinking Small?


Patrick J. Kiger

For National Geographic News

Published April 28, 2013

“Advances in nanotechnology will lead to higher efficiencies and lower costs, and these can and likely will be significant,” explains Matt Beard, a senior scientist for the U.S. Department of Energy‘s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). “In fact, nanotechnology is already having dramatic effects on the science of solar cells.”


Nearly 60 years after researchers first demonstrated a way to convert sunlight into energy, science is still grappling with a critical limitation of the solar photovoltaic cell.

It just isn’t that efficient at turning the tremendous power of the sun into electricity.

And even though commercial solar cells today have double to four times the 6 percent efficiency of the one first unveiled in 1954 by Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, that hasn’t been sufficient to push fossil fuel from its preeminent place in the world energy mix.

But now, alternative energy researchers think that something really small—nanotechnology, the engineering of structures a fraction of the width of a human hair—could give a gigantic boost to solar energy. (Related Quiz: “What You Don’t Know About Solar Power“)

“Advances in nanotechnology will lead to higher efficiencies and lower costs, and these can and likely will be significant,” explains Matt Beard, a senior scientist for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). “In fact, nanotechnology is already having dramatic effects on the science of solar cells.”

Of course, the super-expensive solar arrays used in NASA’s space program are far more efficient than those installed on rooftops. (Related: “Beam It Down: A Drive to Launch Space-Based Solar“) And in the laboratory, scientists have achieved record-breaking efficiencies of more than 40 percent. But such contests are a testament to the gap between solar potential and the mass market cells of today.



The light glinting off the surface of this solar photovoltaic cell signifies lost efficiency. Scientists are looking to nanotechnology to boost solar power, including by reducing the amount of sunlight that silicon wastes through reflection.

The power output of the Sun that reaches the Earth could provide as much as 10,000 times more energy than the combined output of all the commercial power plants on the planet, according to the National Academy of Engineering. The problem is how to harvest that energy.

Today’s commercial solar cells, usually fashioned from silicon, are still relatively expensive to produce (even though prices have come down), and they generally manage to capture only 10 to 20 percent of the sunlight that strikes them. This contributes to the high cost of solar-generated electricity compared to power generated by conventional fossil-fuel-burning plants. By one comparative measure, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated the levelized cost of new solar PV as of 2012 was about 56 percent higher than the cost of generation from a conventional coal plant.

Nanotechnology may provide an answer to the efficiency problem, by tinkering with solar power cells at a fundamental level to boost their ability to convert sunlight into power, and by freeing the industry to use less expensive materials. If so, it would fulfill the predictions of some of nanotechnology’s pioneers, like the late Nobel physicist Richard Smalley, who saw potential in nanoscale engineering to address the world’s energy problems. (See related: “Nano’s Big Future“) Scientists caution that there’s still a lot of work ahead to overcome technical challenges and make these inventions ready for prime time. For example, more research is needed on the environmental, health, and safety aspects of nano-materials, said the National Academy of Sciences in a 2012 report that looked broadly at nanotechnology, not at solar applications in particular. (Related Pictures: “Seven Ingredients for Better Car Batteries.”)

But Luke Henley, a University of Illinois at Chicago chemistry professor who received a 2012 National Science Foundation grant to develop a solar-related nanotechnology project, predicts there will be major advances over the next five to 10 years. “It’s potentially a game changer,” he says. Here are five intriguing recent nanotechnology innovations that could help to boost solar power.

Billions of Tiny Holes

To reduce the amount of sunlight that is reflected away from silicon solar cells and wasted, manufacturers usually add one or more layers of antireflective material, which significantly boosts the cost. But late last year, NREL scientists announced a breakthrough in the use of nanotechnology to reduce the amount of light that silicon cells reflect. It involves using a liquid process to put billions of nano-sized holes in each square inch of a solar cell’s surface. Since the holes are smaller than the light wavelengths hitting them, the light is absorbed rather than reflected. The new material, which is called “black silicon,” is nearly 20 percent more efficient than existing silicon cell designs. (Related photos: “Spanish Solar Energy“)

The “Nano Sandwich”

Organic solar cells, made from elements such as carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen that are found in living things, would be cheaper and easier to make than current silicon-based solar cells. The tradeoff, until now, is that they haven’t been as efficient. But a team of Princeton University researchers, led by electrical engineer Stephen Chou, has been able to nearly triple the efficiency of solar cells by devising a nanostructured “sandwich” of metal and plastic. In technical lingo, their invention is called a plasmodic cavity with subwavelength hole array, or PlaSCH. It consists of a thin strip of plastic sandwiched between a top layer made from an incredibly fine metal mesh and a bottom layer of the metal film used in conventional solar cells.

All aspects of the solar cell’s structure—from its thickness to the spacing of the mesh and diameter of the holes—are smaller than the wavelength of the light that it collects. As a result, the device absorbs most of the light in that frequency rather than reflecting it. “It’s like a black hole for light,” Chou explained in a Princeton press release in December. “It traps it.” Another plus: researchers say the PlaSCH cells can be manufactured cost-effectively in sheets, using a process developed by Chou years ago that embosses the nanostructures over a large area, similar to the way newspapers are printed.

Mimicking Evolution

One of the big difficulties in coming up with more energy-efficient solar cells is the limitations of the researchers’ own imaginations. But in a January 2013 article published in Scientific Reports, Northwestern University mechanical engineering professor Wei Chen and graduate student Cheng Sun introduced a method that might be superior to human brainstorming. Using a mathematical search algorithm based on natural biological evolution, they took dozens of design elements and then “mated” them over a series of 20 generations, in a process that mimicked the evolutionary principles of crossover and genetic mutation.

“Our approach is based upon the biologically evolutionary process of survival of the fittest,” Chen explained in an article on Northwestern University’s website.

The result: An evolution-inspired organic solar cell—that is, one that uses carbon-based materials rather than silicon crystals–in which light first enters a 100-nanometer-thick scattering layer with an unorthodox geometric pattern. The researchers say this should enable it to absorb light more efficiently. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory will fabricate an actual working version of the new cell for testing.

Tiny Antennae

We’re used to thinking of solar energy as something that we collect with panels. But even the latest-generation silicon panels can take in light from only a relatively narrow range of frequencies, amounting to about 20 percent of the available energy in the sun’s rays. The panels then require separate equipment to convert the stored energy to useable electricity. But researchers at the University of Connecticut and Penn State  are working on an entirely new approach, using tiny, nanoscale antenna arrays, which would take in a wider range of frequencies and collect about 70 percent of the available energy in sunlight. Additionally, the antenna arrays themselves could convert that energy to direct current, without need for additional gear.

Scientists have been thinking about using tiny antennae for a while, but until recently, they lacked the technology make them work, since such a setup would require electrodes that were just one or two nanometers apart—about 1/30,000 the width of a human hair. Fortunately, University of Connecticut engineering professor Brian Willis has developed a fabrication technique called selective area atomic-layer deposition, which makes it possible to coat the electrodes with layers of individual copper atoms, until they are separated by just 1.5 nanometers. “This new technology could get us over the hump and make solar energy cost-competitive with fossil fuels,” Willis explained in February. “This is brand new technology, a whole new train of thought.”

Solar-Collecting Paint

No matter what sort of solar energy-collecting technology you employ, there’s still the problem of building a bunch of the devices and hooking them up in places with sun exposure. But University of Southern California chemistry professor Richard L. Brutchey and postdoctoral researcher David H. Webber have devised a technology that could turn a building into a solar collector.

They’ve created a stable, electricity-conducting liquid filled with solar-collecting nanocrystals, which can be painted or printed like an ink onto surfaces such as window glass or plastic roof panels. The nanocrystals, made of cadmium selenide instead of silicon, are about four nanometers in size—about 250 billion of them could fit on the head of a pin—so they are capable of floating in a liquid solution.  (Related Pictures: “A New Hub for Solar Tech Blooms in Japan“)

Brutchey’s and Webber’s secret to getting the technology to work? Finding an organic molecule that could attach to the nanocrystals and stabilize them and prevent them from sticking together, without hindering their ability to conduct electricity.

The researchers aim to work on nanocrystals built from materials other than cadmium, a toxic metal. “While the commercialization of this technology is still years away, we see a clear path forward toward integrating this into the next generation of solar cell technologies,” Brutchey says. (Related video: “Toxic Land Generates Solar Power“)

Quantum Dots that Assemble Themselves

QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8A paper on the new technology, “Self-assembled Quantum Dots in a Nanowire System for Quantum Photonics,” appears in the current issue of the scientific journal Nature Materials. Quantum dots are tiny crystals of semiconductor a few billionths of a meter in diameter. At that size they exhibit beneficial behaviors of quantum physics such as forming electron-hole pairs and harvesting excess energy.

The scientists demonstrated how quantum dots can self-assemble at the apex of the gallium arsenide/aluminum gallium arsenide core/shell nanowire interface. Crucially, the quantum dots, besides being highly stable, can be positioned precisely relative to the nanowire’s center. That precision, combined with the materials’ ability to provide quantum confinement for both the electrons and the holes, makes the approach a potential game-changer.

Electrons and holes typically locate in the lowest energy position within the confines of high-energy materials in the nanostructures. But in the new demonstration, the electron and hole, overlapping in a near-ideal way, are confined in the quantum dot itself at high energy rather than located at the lowest energy states. In this case, that’s the gallium-arsenide core. It’s like hitting the bulls-eye rather than the periphery.

The quantum dots, as a result, are very bright, spectrally narrow and highly anti-bunched, displaying excellent optical properties even when they are located just a few nanometers from the surface – a feature that even surprised the scientists. “Some Swiss scientists announced that they had achieved this, but scientists at the conference had a hard time believing it,” said NREL senior scientist Jun-Wei Luo, one of the co-authors of the study. Luo got to work constructing a quantum-dot-in-nanowire system using NREL’s supercomputer and was able to demonstrate that despite the fact that the overall band edges are formed by the gallium Arsenide core, the thin aluminum-rich barriers provide quantum confinement both for the electrons and the holes inside the aluminum-poor quantum dot. That explains the origin of the highly unusual optical transitions.

Several practical applications are possible. The fact that stable quantum dots can be placed very close to the surface of the nanowires raises a huge potential for their use in detecting local electric and magnetic fields. The quantum dots also could be used to charge converters for better light-harvesting, as in the case of photovoltaic cells.

The team of scientists working on the project came from universities and laboratories in Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, and the United States.

More information: reference: Nature Materials Provided by National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Read more at:

Improved colloidal quantum dots to make solar cells more efficient

QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8A new technique developed by University of Toronto Engineering Professor Ted Sargent and his research group could lead to significantly more efficient solar cells.


In a paper published in the journal Nano Letters, the group describes a new technique to improve efficiency in what are called colloidal quantum dot photovoltaics. It’s a technology that already promises inexpensive and more efficient solar cell technology.


A Quantum Cell

But researchers say such devices could be even more effective if they could better harness the infrared portion of the sun’s spectrum, which is responsible for half of the sun’s power that reaches the Earth.

The solution has an unwieldy name: spectrally tuned, solution-processed plasmonic nanoparticles. These particles, researchers say, provide unprecedented control over light’s propagation and absorption.

The new technique developed by Sargent’s group shows a possible 35% increase in the technology’s efficiency in the near-infrared spectral region, says co-author Susanna Thon (pictured left). Overall, this could translate to an 11% solar power conversion efficiency increase, she says, making quantum dot photovoltaics even more attractive as an alternative to current solar cell technologies.

“There are two advantages to colloidal quantum dots,” Thon says. “First, they’re much cheaper, so they reduce the cost of electricity generation measured in cost per watt of power. But the main advantage is that by simply changing the size of the quantum dot, you can change its light-absorption spectrum.

“Changing the size is very easy, and this size-tunability is a property shared by plasmonic materials: by changing the size of the plasmonic particles, we were able to overlap the absorption and scattering spectra of these two key classes of nanomaterials.”

Sargent’s group achieved the increased efficiency by embedding gold nanoshells directly into the quantum dot absorber film. Gold is not usually thought of as an economical material but researchers say lower-cost metals can be used to implement the same concept proved by Thon and her co-workers.

The current research provides a proof of principle, says Thon.

“People have tried to do similar work but the problem has always been that the metal they use also absorbs some light and doesn’t contribute to the photocurrent—so it’s just lost light.”

More work needs to be done, she adds.

“We want to achieve more optimization, and we’re also interested in looking at cheaper metals to build a better cell. We’d also like to better target where photons are absorbed in the cell—this is important photovoltaics because you want to absorb as many photons as you can as close to the charge collecting electrode as you possibly can.”

The research is also important because it shows the potential of tuning nanomaterial properties to achieve a certain goal, says Paul Weiss, Director of the California NanoSystems Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

“This work is a great example of fulfilling the promise of nanoscience and nanotechnology,” Weiss says. “By developing the means to tune the properties of nanomaterials, Sargent and his co-workers have been able to make significant improvements in an important device function, namely capturing a broader range of the solar spectrum more effectively.”

Jointly-tuned plasmonic-excitonic photovoltaics using nanoshells

Source: University of Toronto

Are Legal Battles Ahead for Samsung & LG and Will That Give the Edge to Apple in OLED’s?


Apple Flexible OLED

The reports from the industry already have suggested that Apple with indeed be the first to commercially release a product featuring flexible OLED displays, and although they are certainly not without their own legal disputes with various electronics manufacturers, could this be their window of opportunity to get in first?

Before assuming these reports are accurate – there are suggestions that reports aren’t entirely telling the whole truth about this “raid”.

A spokeswoman from Samsung, Jun Eun Sun is quoted as saying “We have no reason to steal other companies’ technology, as we have the world’s best OLED technology.” LG itself has said that it didn’t report anything to police in connection with the investigation with their spokesman, Son Young Jun saying “The latest investigation is related to large-sized OLED TV panel technology, but the police have made the allegation themselves.”

Of course legal battles alone most certainly do not halt the research, development & production of such technology, and has indeed been the cause of disputes between the companies historically, but it may just be enough to allow Apple the edge. Recently they posted a job advert for a “Display Specialist to lead the investigation on emerging display technologies such as high optical efficiency LCD, AMOLED and flexible display to improve overall display optical performance.”

Flexible being the operative word here, and coupled with their patent for a new shaped iPhone with a “wraparound” display, suggest they are not just on the heels of the two South Korean giants, but firmly in the same race. Indeed they have been for some time – the public release of the Apple patent belies its date of inception – September 2011, way before Samsung’s Brian Berkeley demonstrated and announced their new flexible display. For the record, Apple pulled the job advert fairly quickly, but not before it was noticed by the tech media.

Let’s not also forget that LG are going full-steam ahead to be first to market, with plans to release their first AMOLED flexible display device in the second half of 2013. With all this cloak-and-dagger reports it really would take a company insider to tell the world the reality of what’s going on behind the scenes in the world of flexible OLED tech, and never like to jump the gun on announcements, but the volume of reports coming out of Asia on a daily basis can only mean that something reasonably big will be announced soon. The burning question is – which company will be the one to make the announcement first, and which product will have the most appeal to the public?

Better Batteries May Spark New Consumer Devices, Cars

QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8BASF (BASFY), Toyota  (TM) and IBM  (IBM) are among companies placing sizable  early bets on next-generation batteries that could better power things big or  small, such as electric cars or maybe wristwatch computers, according to Lux  Research analyst Cosmin Laslau. But not for a while.

First the new batteries might get a real-world test powering unmanned aerial  vehicles — drones and microvehicles — for the military, he says, as it’s a case  where the customer might be willing to pay double for a 10% improvement in power  for the weight. Several new technologies could deliver up to 10 times more  energy than today’s batteries, Lux Research says in a new report.

The current Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery market is worth north of $10  billion, Laslau says. But for now applications are limited at the small end by  how much power output the batteries have for their size — think of how much  space the battery of an Apple (AAPL)  iPhone takes up. On the big end of applications are electric cars, where the  cost of a large-enough battery to provide a useful number of miles in driving  range is a limiting factor. Size is an issue there, too.

“When you get to large size like say a Tesla (TSLA)  electric vehicle, in order to get the range people want … it might cost  $30,000 for the battery alone,” Laslau said.

The report, “Beyond Lithium-Ion: A Roadmap for Next-Generation Batteries,”  that Laslau put together with two contributors sees military users as the entry  point for next-gen batteries around 2020 and consumer electronics adopting new  solid-state batteries by 2030, but it’s a hard sell for next-gen batteries in  transportation to unseat Li-ion batteries. Meanwhile, research and other kinds  of gains are expected to continue improving those and push down costs.

The next-gen battery types that could be Li-ion alternatives go by names such as Lithium-air, Lithium-sulfur, Solid-state (ceramic or polymer) and Zinc-air. They have different safety and power profiles, with solid-state having a safety edge. Several startups, such as PolyPlus, Sion Power and Oxis Energy, are working on next-gen types, and Laslau says one hard part is translating them from prototype to production. BASF has put $50 million into Sion, he adds.

The report notes that giants such as IBM, Bosch, Toyota and BMW are active in  battery research — and the last two recently partnered on it.

Some government-backed battery startups “have failed spectacularly,” Laslau  said, with A123 Systems the prime example.

“Now the U.S. has changed tack and put $120 million into Argonne National  Lab’s JCESR, the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research,” he said. It will  focus on fundamental R&D rather than making bets on startups.

“We think this is a very promising development,” Laslau said, noting that the  lab is also partnering “with really well-established companies like Johnson  Controls (JCI) that have the expertise to  mass-produce any prototypes.” Other partners include Dow  Chemical (DOW) and Applied  Materials (AMAT).

Read More At Investor’s Business Daily: Follow us: @IBDinvestors on Twitter | InvestorsBusinessDaily on Facebook

Key Patent Analysis on Quantum Dot Displays Released

QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 802/21/2013




Note To Readers: While monitoring patent activity is neither novel nor “ground breaking”, it is worthy to note the activity as it applies in certains areas of research with burgeoning interest … such as the application of “nanomaterials” in the OLED/ QLED markets, as being “the next generation display material.”

The quantum dot recently emerged as a next-generation display material. Quantum dots, whose diameter is just a few nanometers, are semiconductor crystals. The smaller its particle is, the more short-wavelength light are emitted; the larger its particle is, the more long-wavelength lights get emitted.
Considering that there are more advantages with the quantum dots over conventional light sources, it is not surprising that the quantum dot display gains a lot of attention. The quantum dot display consumes lower power and has a richer color than the conventional OLED. In addition, the white light produced by quantum dots has high brightness and excellent color reproduction, raising its potential to replace the backlight unit (BLU) using the LED. Not surprisingly, leading companies in the display industry are accelerating to secure relevant technologies.

Analysis of Patent Application Trends By country, 93 patents (or 34%) were filed in South Korea, 87 in the U.S., 36 in Japan, 22 in Europe, and 35 under the PCT. By technology, patents on quantum dot light emitting diodes (QLED) technology (188 patents, 69%) were applied the most, followed by those on BLU using the white light source; quantum dot display; and LED-using white light source technologies.

Implications As the quantum dot display has emerged as the next-generation display technology ever since the OLED, the leading companies in the display industry, including Samsung and LG, are making aggressive investment to take a lead in the technology. They not only develop their own technologies, but also purchase patents from; make technology licensing agreements with; or make equity investment in the companies of the field.

The competition to obtain key patents on the quantum dot display is expected to only increase. Monitoring published/issued patents on a regular basis and having a thorough analysis on them have become more important.

Key Patent Report – Quantum Dot Display covers patent application trends and an in-depth analysis.

*** Excerpted from: Flexible OLED/ QLED Screen Markets to Reach $72 Billion by 2016

” … Once freed from today’s relatively heavy, breakable and fixed glass displays, tomorrow’s devices may look very different, with screens that can be rolled out, attached to uneven surfaces, or even stretched. But there’s still some way to go.

“It becomes a product designer’s paradise — once the technology is sorted out,” says Jonathan Melnick, who analyzes display technology for Lux Research.

There is no shortage of prototypes. South Korea’s Samsung Electronics this year showed off a display screen that extends from the side of a device — but obstacles remain: overcoming technical issues, figuring out how to mass produce parts cheaply, and coming up with devices compelling enough for gadget buyers.

Screen technology — with the global small display market expected to more than double to around $72 billion by 2016, according to DisplaySearch — is still dominated by liquid crystal displays (LCDs), which require a backlight and sit between two sheets of glass, making the screen a major contributor to the weight of a device, from laptops to tablets.”

Link Here:

Is There A Commercial Future for OLED/ QLED’s

Why Solution Processing May Still Matter in

The OLED Industry

Published March 2013 by NanoMarkets Research


QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8Not that many years ago it seems solution processing was being touted as the OLED’s future. “Printing” was the way to get OLEDs down in price to where they would become widely used.



The Short, Sad History of Solution-Processed OLEDs

Indeed, the arguments seemed hard to argue with:

  • Solution processing is inherently less costly than vapor deposition and easier to scale to

larger substrate size. It is also highly compatible with R2R manufacturing; a long-term

dream of the industry.

  • Material waste with solution processing is potentially much lower than in conventional

vapor-phase deposition processes. Important when expensive OLED materials are


So things should have gone well for solution-processed OLEDs. But they haven’t. Efforts to get printed polymer OLEDs out of the gate have moved only just slightly beyond the science project stage. Polymer OLEDs subsist mainly because of the huge resources that Sumitomo can bring to them. GE promised to be the first in the market with a reasonably priced OLED lighting panel using solution-processed small molecules. But things don’t seem to have gone well there either.

Worse. Samsung has shown up those who once said that solution processing was the only way to go in the OLED world, by turning the OLED cell phone display into a mass market; indeed the only OLED mass market to date.

And yet, some important firms continue to soldier on with solution processing. DuPont Displays, UDC, Sumitomo, Solvay, and Merck/EMD are all betting on solution deposition for future generations of OLEDs, and are actively developing OLED materials for inkjet printing, wetcoating, nozzle printing, aerosol jet printing, etc.

Most are expecting commercialization within the next year to 18 months. So the question has to be asked, is there some real value that solution processing can bring to the OLED sector? Or are the firms still dreaming of solution-processed OLEDs merely nostalgic or delusional?

Size Matters and So Does Solution Processing

The huge success of Samsung’s Galaxy phones with OLED displays has shown that OLEDs can compete extremely successfully against LCD displays. And ongoing speculation that Apple will also use OLEDs for iPhones and iPads in the near future shows that OLEDs have now established a level of credibility where such things can be said without being laughed at.

This is no mean feat. Various new display technologies have gone into battle against LCDs over the past few decades and all of them have until now been beaten back. The fact that OLEDs have done so well is remarkable in its way. However, this success remains confined to small- and medium-sized OLED displays. (Ask yourself why?)

From the perspective of the OLED materials sector – and as Exhibit 1 shows – this is not so bad. If OLEDs continue to grow in just these small- and medium-area displays, then NanoMarkets’ latest forecasts indicate that the market for functional OLED materials (emitter, host, blocking, transport, and injection materials) will grow from about $380 million in 2013 to a respectable $926 million by 2109.

Such numbers speak to the structure of the OLED materials sector going forward. There is enough here to interest firms such as BASF, DuPont, Merck, which are chasing after this market right now. But NanoMarkets believes that these firms are motivated by the possibility that OLED panels – both for lighting and for displays – could be a lot larger than they are now.

In Exhibit 2 we bring OLED TVs and OLED lighting into the forecasts, based on what we think is a plausible scenario for their deployment. OLED TVs have been demonstrated for at least five

years and have seen limited sales. They offer vibrant colors and an ultra-thin form factor. But these TVs are also extraordinarily expensive. Meanwhile, large OLED lighting OLED panels seem to be essential to bringing OLEDs into mainstream office lighting; crucial if OLED lighting is ever going to take off.

Based on our assumptions – and as shown in Exhibit 2 – when one includes both OLED TVs and OLED lighting, the value of the market jumps to about $1.8 billion by 2019, or twice the size of the materials market when only small and medium OLED displays are included. Beyond 2019, the success of large-panel OLEDs would mean a dramatically enhanced business opportunity for OLED material suppliers.

If large OLED panels can be created with a process that offers reasonable yields, then large revenues are the result. So size matters in two senses. The important thing to recognize here is that NanoMarkets’ projections are not based on exceptionally high expectations: Very modest penetration rates of the TV and lighting sectors will translate into big gains in addressable markets for OLED materials suppliers.

Could solution processing prove the key enabling technology that gets the materials industry to those modest gains?

 Cost-Effective Scalability

NanoMarkets’ forecasts, portrayed in the Exhibits above, are also based on an assumption that OLEDs can be made to demonstrate cost-effective scalability. If this cannot be achieved then OLED TVs and OLED lighting will never become mainstream consumer items. One small defect can cause an entire large panel to fail, after all, and low yields guarantee that no one can make money on large OLEDs without charging exorbitantly high prices. As proof that we are still a long way from the goal here, consider what follows. OLED TVs: LG currently sells 55” OLED TVs at about $10,000 to $15,000 each in several markets and is planning to expand into additional markets over the next twelve months.

Meanwhile, Samsung is still saying that it will launch its own 55” OLED TV product late this year or early next, and Panasonic, Sony, Seiko Epson, and AUO are all planning to enter the OLED TV market soon. TVs that cost upwards of $10,000 each are clearly out of reach of the average consumer. For comparison, an average smart 55” LCD TV costs around $1,500 – $2,000. So even if OLEDs are sold at a premium based on their status as the “latest-greatest” technology, prices need to come down by a 5x factor. To date, however, low manufacturing yields in conventional vapor deposition processes are keeping costs (and prices) high.

Office lighting: The U.S. Department of Energy, (Bruce writes: Who did QMC just send Dots to?) estimates that OLED lighting is currently about 10 times too expensive to compete widely in general illumination in the workplace.

Cost reductions might be achieved by moving to higher generation production lines, although larger manufacturing facilities require investment by pioneering firms willing to take the risk. So far, only LG has really committed to building a full-scale plant for larger-area panels; LG is spending $650 million on a Gen-8 WOLED TV line, and the firm could use this line to accelerate progress on its efforts toward making larger-area OLED lighting panels as well.

But materials suppliers can enable cost reductions, too: organic layer formulations could be mademore stable and easier to deposit in uniform layers, cost-effective high performance encapsulation systems would reduce yield losses; and more conductive, transparent electrodes could reduce brightness non-uniformity and resistive loss (heating), especially in OLED lighting panels.


Solution Processing to the Rescue?

 While any number of materials and manufacturing improvements could get the OLED industry part of the way to where it needs to be with regard to large panels, NanoMarkets believes that a major part of the manufacturing strategy that will get the OLED industry to the high-end revenue scenario that we show in Exhibit 2 will involve solution processing.

The point here is that we think there is enough in the old solution processing story to make this technology. Or in different words, solution processing may not have gotten us that far to date, but the problems associated with it can be fixed and are worth fixing.

Apart from purely technical considerations, one reason for being optimistic about solution processing’s future role in the OLED sector is that when NanoMarkets analyzed what was going on in solution processed OLEDs, we found a lot more than just collapsing research programs from a decade ago; although there were those too.

But there are also some bright new solution processing technologies that, we believe, will bring solution processing to the fore in the OLED sector in just a few years. And these newer programs are being masterminded – and paid for – by firms with deep pockets.

Thus, DuPont is known to be working with Samsung on solution processing for OLED TVs,

although their timeline for commercialization is unknown. However, at least one panel maker –

Pioneer, in partnership with Mitsubishi’s Verbatim brand – is planning to commercialize OLED

lighting panels made using solution processing in 2014. If successful, this team will be the first to market and may be the one that does what GE was unable to do. If Pioneer succeeds in this regard, it is even just possible that GE may jump back into the game.

Given this, NanoMarkets believes that, eventually, a shift from conventional vapor-deposition technology toward solution processing is highly likely with solution processing eventually taking up a sizeable share of the OLED market. (See Exhibit 3.). Should this scenario pan out, we anticipate that revenues from solution-processable OLED functional materials will grow from about $50 million this year to well over $800 million by 2019.




Flexible OLED/ QLED Screen Markets to Reach $72B by 2016

QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8The touted arrival this year of wearable gadgets such as computer displays strapped to wrists and in wrap-around glasses is just a step towards a bigger revolution in screens — those that can be bent, folded and rolled up.

Once freed from today’s relatively heavy, breakable and fixed glass displays, tomorrow’s devices may look very different, with screens that can be rolled out, attached to uneven surfaces, or even stretched. But there’s still some way to go.

“It becomes a product designer’s paradise — once the technology is sorted out,” says Jonathan Melnick, who analyzes display technology for Lux Research.

There is no shortage of prototypes. South Korea’s Samsung Electronics this year showed off a display screen that extends from the side of a device — but obstacles remain: overcoming technical issues, figuring out how to mass produce parts cheaply, and coming up with devices compelling enough for gadget buyers.

Screen technology — with the global small display market expected to more than double to around $72 billion by 2016, according to DisplaySearch — is still dominated by liquid crystal displays (LCDs), which require a backlight and sit between two sheets of glass, making the screen a major contributor to the weight of a device, from laptops to tablets.

“Most of the weight in a tablet is the glass structure in the display and the support structure around it to prevent it from cracking,” said Kevin Morishige, a former engineer at Cisco, Hewlett-Packard and Palm.

LCD’s dominance is already under threat from lighter Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs) that don’t need backlighting, are brighter, offer a wider viewing angle and better color contrast — and can be printed onto a few layers.

From Gorilla to Willow

Glass, however, is getting lighter and more flexible.

Corning, whose toughened Gorilla glass became the screen of choice for many smartphones, will provide phones with curved glass edges as soon as this year. It is also now promoting Willow Glass, which can be as thin as a sheet of paper and is flexible enough to be wrapped around a device or structure. Initially, Willow will be used as a coating for products like solar panels, but it is eventually expected to create curved products.

Corning's Willow Glass

Corning’s Willow Glass

A key selling point for Willow is more efficient production which involves so-called roll-to-roll manufacturing, like a printing press, rather than today’s more costly batch manufacturing. But the commercialization of Willow as a flexible product is some way off, James Clappin, who heads Corning’s glass technology group, told Reuters.

And glass has its limits.

“You can bend it, but you can’t keep flexing it,” said Adrian Burden, a UK consultant who has worked on several start-ups related to display technology, and holds patents in the field. This means that while glass is likely to continue to play a leading role in devices with curved displays, screens that users can bend, fold and roll will likely be plastic.

But plastic is not as robust as glass. “As soon as you introduce plastic substrates you have all kinds of issues with sensitivity to the environment,” says Burden.

Plugging the leaks 

So while OLED and plastic would seem to be companion technologies they create an extra problem when laid together: they need so-called barrier films to prevent the various layers from leaking oxygen and moisture.

“There are barrier films in all sorts of products, for example food packaging, but the challenge is that OLED is one of the most sensitive materials we follow, and so creates huge challenges,” says Lux Research’s Melnick.

Singapore-based Tera-Barrier Films, for example, has developed a way to plug leaks in the layers using nanoparticles. Director Senthil Ramadas says that after years of delays the company last month started production in Japan and aims for mass production by end-2014.

“You have several challenges in the value chain,” he said. “All these things need to be established, and only now is it coming out.”

And there’s another problem: all the materials in a bendable display need to be bendable, too — including the transparent conductors that drive current through the display. Several technologies are vying to replace the brittle and expensive Indium Tin Oxide (ITO) used in most fixed displays, including nanowires, carbon nanotubes, graphene and conductive mesh.

Some of these technologies are close to production. Another Singapore-based firm, Cima Nanotech, for example, rolls a coating of silver-based conductive ink on a sheet which then self-aligns into a web of strands a few microns across that forms the conductive layer.

It’s unlikely such shifts in the underlying technologies will yield products immediately. For one thing, “prototypes can be made,” says Melnick, “but that’s a long way from mass production as many of the processes and material in these devices face big yield and scaling issues.”

On a roll

This is gradually changing, some in the industry say, as production shifts from making parts in batches of sheets to the more efficient roll-to-roll process. “Batch is more expensive and slower than roll-to-roll, which needs new equipment and design — and takes time,” said Ramadas at Tera-Barrier.

All this requires money, and manufacturers have to be convinced to invest in the new equipment.

Even after the success of Gorilla Glass, popularized by the iPhone, Corning is having to work hard to prepare customers for Willow displays. Clappin said customers want thinner devices and easier to produce glass, but Willow requires a completely different manufacturing set-up.

“When we talk about commercializing Willow a big part of our development activity is enabling the ecosystem to handle what is essentially a brand new material,” Clappin added. “Nobody’s accustomed to working with glass that bends and moves. It’s a new material. The ecosystem needs to be trained to handle it.”

He sees demand, particularly from video gamers, for Willow-based curved screens, but remains less convinced about rollable or foldable screens. “Conformable is in the near future. As far as flexible, bendable, fold-upable goes, I see that further out and I’m not even sure that’s a viable product,” he said.

For companies with deep pockets, like Samsung, this can mean building prototypes such as those displayed at international technology shows. But that doesn’t guarantee success in selling products. Sony, for example, promoted flexible OLED displays back in 2007. “Six years later they’ve not come up with anything,” says Zhang Jie, senior scientist at Singapore’s Institute of Metals Research and Engineering. “If Samsung’s going to really drive this the application really needs to drive people and make them want it.”

This slows down the process. In late 2011, Samsung told analysts it planned to introduce flexible displays into handsets “some time in 2012, hopefully the earlier part than later,”but a year later the company said the technology was still “under development.” In an investment note last month Jefferies said that while Samsung may introduce “unbreakable” screens this year, it didn’t expect to see flexible displays in Samsung devices until 2014-15.

Ultimately, teasing out the technical problems may be only half the battle.

“This is the eternal question of the speciality materials industry,” says Lutz Grubel, Japan-based head of marketing for German glass maker Schott’s Xensation Cover 3-D glass. “You have something, a material, and you’re looking for an application. That’s the game.”

For More Information On OLED/ QLED Markets go to this Wintergreen Research Report: