CES 2012: Nanosys Redefining "Colorful" In Computer Screens with QDEF Display Technology

Do you notice a difference in the two images above?

They're the exact same photograph displayed on identical iPads. Well, almost identical. The one on the left has been opened up, had its white LEDs switched with blue LEDs, and a sheet of phosphor material added. And I'm sure you can tell that the colors have undergone quite a shift. Or rather, the shift has been corrected since now the image is showing at 100% color accuracy rather than the 50% accuracy of the image on the right.

Making Displays Better, But Not More Energy-Hungry
For anyone who has looked at an iPad, you probably think that the display is gorgeous. And it is. But it could be even more gorgeous if the colors were spot on. Jeff Yurek of Nanosys met with me at this year's CES to illustrate the difference in the improved quality their technology gives to displays like those on an iPad. And boy is it a difference.

Last year, we met with Nanosys, a company that has come up with a way to make a simple switch to how displays are made, helping everything from laptops to televisions have more vivid, and more accurate, color.

As we explained last year:

"The trick is in nanotechnology, creating nanomaterials out of semiconductor materials to layer over blue LED lights (the most energy efficient LED color), forming better quality white LED light with a range of hues. And the result is far more vivid colors with the same energy efficiency of current LED technology. Using this nanotechnology, the company has figured out how to make LEDs of virtually any hue with a color saturation far greater than current LED-backlit LCD displays, and lighting that has warmer hues."

Here -- check out another side-by-side:

Color Accuracy and Energy Efficiency in Display Technology
Yurek noted that the company uses the National Television System Committee (NTSC) standards for color accuracy. He stated that an iPad reaches about 50% accuracy, and the standard laptop reaches about 72%. But LED displays using Nanosys technology reach 100% accuracy.

The technology is assembly line-ready. Essentially, display manufacturers only need to make minimal changes to existing infrastructure, replace white LEDs currently used with blue LEDs and add a layer of this new phosphor material. What they'd then have is a display that provides more rich, deep and vivid colors but that don't use up any extra energy to provide the improved image. Usually brighter + colorful = more electricity. But not with this technology.

The technology is as energy efficient as LED technology, which means it is way ahead of OLEDs right now which offer beautiful displays but not necessarily a constant energy savings. In other words, while the future of OLEDs may seem bright (and companies like Samsung are still pursuing OLED displays while others like Sony have dropped out of the race), the future of LEDs is already here and the technology from Nanosys can mean vast improvements without much effort.

Here, you'll see a blue LED shining onto a sheet of the phosphor material, and as the blue light hits the sheet it changes color to white (well, it might look a bit on the greenish side in this photo but I can attest to the fact that in person, it looks white).

Yurek noted how important this color-accurate technology can be to artists, photographers, designers and others -- especially for those who use programs such as ColorLava from Adobe to mix or adjust colors. In this app, you can blend your own colors to create the exact color you want to use in a file in Photoshop -- whatever color you mix is the color your paintbrush will use in Photoshop. But knowing exactly what color you're using is key.

The change in manufacturing could alter how easily LED-backlit televisions could be recycled, and the environmental impact manufacturing of the phosphor material is something we could stand to learn more about. But over all, what Nanosys is offering will be appealing to display manufacturers. Yurek noted that we can expect to see laptops using this technology by the end of this year.

CES 2012: Nanosys Redefining "Colorful" In Computer Screens with QDEF Display Technology
With a relatively minor change in manufacturing processes, companies making everythign from laptops to TVs can give viewers 100% color accuracy without using extra energy.

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