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Advanced Manufacturing

Scalable Processing of High Efficiency ZNS Quantum Dots

Company Name: Nano Elements Source, LLC
Program Office: Advanced Manufacturing
Location: McDonald, TN
Email:Patrick Caveney, Vice President of Technology;
Award Amount: $160,000
Project Term: 12 months
Project Status: Agreement negotiation
Participating Lab(s): Oak Ridge National Laboratory


Many energy experts and businesses see quantum dots as the future of solid-state lighting — used in displays such as monitors, televisions and touchscreens — due to their high energy-efficiency and precise colors. However, broad market adoption has been limited to high-end applications such as electronics displays due to the high material cost and the use of toxic cadmium, which is facing an international policy effort to end its use in consumer electronics. These drawbacks prevent the expansion of quantum dot technology into markets like large-scale lighting applications despite its superior energy efficiency and color range.

Nano Elements Source, LLC, a biotech startup offering affordable, environmentally-conscious quantum dot precursor materials, has licensed the NanoFermentation technology from Oak Ridge National Laboratory to further commercialize the production of low cost, cadmium free photoluminescent nanoparticles. NanoFermentation is capable of producing size-controlled cadmium free precursor material for quantum dots for significantly less cost than traditional high temperature methods. This project will improve the photoluminescent quantum efficiency of NanoFermented quantum dot materials. By demonstrating high efficiency NanoFermented zinc sulfide nanoparticles, market barriers are diminished to commercially manufacture thin films for solid-state lighting applications.


NanoFermentation is a bacterial fermentation process capable of making nanoparticles with narrow size distributions. Unlike traditional quantum dot synthesis methods, NanoFermentation does not require high temperatures or hazardous chemicals. These particles currently have surface defects that limit their efficiency. This project will improve efficiency by removing the defects through novel post-processing methods, while maintaining a low cost of material production. Such efficiency gains can advance commercialization of this technology.



The market for quantum dots used in high-resolution displays alone is projected to be 65,000 kilograms and $4 billion annually by 2020. Reducing the cost of the quantum dot material will open this market even further to areas like solid state lighting. Quantum dot solid state lighting is a critical need because of its energy efficiency. The United States would save as much as 4 percent of electricity consumption by switching all lighting to quantum dot solid-state lighting.


NanoFermentation technology is capable of producing cadmium free, alternative, precursor material for quantum dots at significantly less cost without hazardous chemicals used in traditional high temperature processes. Efficiency gains could help reduce carbon emissions from power generation.


Lighting represents 10 percent of all US electricity use. The energy efficiency gains by switching to low cost quantum dot solid state lighting would reduce U.S. dependence on imported energy sources.