*** “Great Things from Small Things” has written and re-published many articles over the past several years on the “wee tiny” nano-materials called Quantum Dots. Their enabling applications across a broad spectrum of Markets & Industries from Electronics, Textiles, Drug Therapies, Bio-Medicines to Solar Energy Generation/ Storage and Display Screens, has been well documented. It would seem these new “wonder nano-materials” are poised to change the entire landscape of how we innovate and manufacture almost everything.
So what’s the catch? What has delayed a broader acceptance and integration of quantum dots into the marketplace? It would seem the answer lies not in the efficacy & validity of the new ‘nano-materials’ but more in the age old and time tested axiom of: “Low Cost + High Consistency + Ability to Mass Scale = Commercial Success.
A new company Nano Assembly has plans to change all that. Business Investigative writer Osama Natto highlights the High Profile Team and award winning company’s collaboration with KAUST (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology) to integrate these disruptive game changing materials in the broader marketplace for commercial success.
Article by Osama Natto
Quantum dots are expensive enough to limit their otherwise broad applicability.
The standard way to make these semiconductor particles is to heat a solution to a high temperature in a small flask and inject a special agent. However, the solution will cool down naturally, and manual operation cannot maintain the high temperature needed for efficient production.
One can scale production of quantum dots up by using a larger flask, but this does not produce quality results. One can also use a continuous-flow reactor to benefit from higher consistency and automatic operation, as well as production of quantum dots in different sizes, but this still does not produce high-quality quantum dots.
The Nano Assembly team has found a new method for producing quantum dots consistently and at a significantly lower price than competitors.
How the Product Works
The optical and electrical properties of quantum dots depend on their size and type. Different sizes emit different colors and exhibit a different absorption spectrum. Quantum dots must be produced according to careful standards.
The Technology Nano Assembly’s dual-stage servo control method allows the production of quantum dots without the broad peaks and troughs that come from other methods. The lower the absorption peak, the higher the quality of the quantum dots.
Where It Fits into the Market The quantum dots produced by Nano Assembly can be used anywhere that more expensively-produced quantum dots are utilized, allowing competing offerings to be replaced.
Patent Status The team has already filed for a patent and published their work in a high-impact journal.
Benefits to Saudi Economy These “low-cost and high quality quantum dots” could allow tech products already popular in Saudi Arabia, such as mobile phones, to include more efficient displays while remaining inexpensive. The team’s affordable quantum dots could also allow more people access to high-quality medical imaging, and improve solar cell technology to allow effective harvest of one of Saudi Arabia’s greatest natural resources: sunlight.
In part due to their ability to produce a rainbow of bright colors efficiently, quantum dots are used in display technologies. Since quantum dots are so tiny, they can also move anywhere in the human body, making them useful in the field of medical imaging as replacements for fluorescence-based biosensors that use organic dyes. Quantum dots can also be used as the absorbing photovoltaic material in solar cells.
Features and Benefits of the Product
- High quality relative to competitors’ quantum dots
- Low cost relative to competitors’ quantum dots
Since quantum dots are used to make other products, Nano Assembly would be operating in the business-to-business market, although applications in fields like solar power also leave the door open for business-to-government sales.
Current methods for producing quantum dots include high-temperature dual injection synthesis, molecular seeding, and a variation of the high-temperature dual injection method that incorporates a continuous flow system.
Names and Profiles of Team Members
Credentials Dr. Pan has earned both a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science from Anhui Polytechnic University, along with a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Science and Technology of China. He is now participating in a post-doctoral fellowship at KAUST. Within the Nano Assembly team, Dr. Pan is in charge of production.
El-Ballouli holds a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and a Master of Science in Organic Chemistry from the American University of Beirut. She is currently a Ph.D. student at KAUST. Her primary area of interest is continuous-flow synthesis and size separation of quantum dots for assembly in solar cells. El-Ballouli is in charge of product testing for the team.
Dr. Bakr has earned a Bachelor of Science in Materials Science and Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), as well as both a Master of Science and Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Harvard University. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, and Principal Investigator at KAUST. Dr. Bakr acts as scientific adviser to the Nano Assembly team.
Dr. Sargent holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Physics from Queen’s University, along with a Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering (Photonics) from the University of Toronto. He is the Vice Dean of Research for the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, a Professor in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE), and a KAUST Investigator. Dr. Sargent is the technique and business adviser for the team.
Nano Assembly has already begun the process of incorporating their company. Their immediate task is to set up the production line that they have prepared, test it, and scale it up. They are expecting significant annual growth through 2017.
Big-Picture Impact on the Saudi Economy
The availability of high-quality quantum dots at a low price could help more tech-savvy companies and entrepreneurs enter the electronics, solar power, and medical imaging fields, among others. It could also help existing companies produce more cost-effective offerings within these fields. Either way, the end result would be a more technologically advanced and competitive Saudi Arabia.