Thursday, March 30, 2006

Quantum Dots – Lighting the Way

Quantum Dots are small devices fabricated with semiconductor techniques to contain a precise number of electrons. Because these electrons are contained, they exhibit “quantum” characteristics found in atomic systems. They are useful in studying atomic properties and are used in biological and genomic experiments in particular.

Quantum dots range in size from 2-10 nm. A 1 cm long penny contains 4M quantum dots. Here’s a short tutorial. Also, Wikipedia provides additional background information including fabrication and applications.

Quantum dots emit light and can be tuned to any particular wavelength over the entire visible range of spectrum from infrared to ultraviolet. As the dot becomes smaller, the wavelength shortens and the color shifts toward blue. One can make LEDs from Quantum Dots. Michael Bowers of Vanderbilt developed quantum dots at such a small size that the fluorescent properties changed. Quantum dots designed to fluoresce blue turned into a full-spectrum white when excited by a laser. The white light has applications in replacing standard light bulbs (a combination electrical/mechanical process) with a process completely electrical which would generate significant savings in energy.

Companies operating with this emerging technology include Evident Technologies, and Quantum Dot Corporation.

As with many emerging technologies, there’s a conference dedicated to the topic.

Virtual Instrumentation brings to the field of Quantum Dots data acquisition, imaging, and control. Johns Hopkins researchers use virtual instrumentation to built a dual-wavelength emission confocal spectroscopic system to measure targets. MIT researchers used quantum dots with a near-infrared approach for biomedical imaging in living tissue. The Centre for Micro-Photonics at Swinburne University built virtual instrumentation-based systems with LabVIEW for nanopositioning and photon counting for quantum-dot applications.

Best regards,
Hall T.

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