Mass High Tech
By Efrain Viscarolasaga
After five years in development, quantum-dot lighting technology developer QD Vision Inc. of Watertown has launched its first commercial product, while it continues its technology development through government projects.
QD Vision’s first commercial product comes in the white-hot industry of consumer lighting, where giant companies like GE Lighting, Philips Lighting Co. and Danvers-based Osram Sylvania battle for the projected billions in revenue for long-lasting, high-efficiency lighting products for consumer applications.
But as a small — the company employs 46 — technology developer, QD Vision partnered with a comparatively small lighting company in North Carolina-based Nexxus Lighting Inc. to unveil its nanotechnology-based lighting optics. Last month, the tandem held the public unveiling of its product, a light emitting diode-based lamp aimed at home and office use.
The LED bulbs look slightly different than traditional “down lamps,” such as those in home track lighting, but fit standard fixtures using the same “screw-in” mechanism that has been around for decades. Nexxus expects the products to be generally available in the fourth quarter of this year.
According to QD Vision CEO Daniel Button, the addition of QD Vision’s quantum-dot optics to Nexxus’ LED lamps takes the highly efficient LED lamp and simply makes it more pleasing to the eye, or “warmer.” Traditional LEDs can look bluish and pale. To compensate, manufacturers sometimes add a red phosphor to the diodes, but by doing so, much of the red needs to be blocked, eliminating much of the efficiency (and increasing cost), explained Button.
“The problem being solved here is classic — high efficiency has a poor CRI (color rendering index),” said Button. “But by simply placing our optic over the existing Nexxus design, you get a warmer light without sacrificing quality.”
While the Nexxus partnership is QD Vision’s first commercial product, QD Vision has been successful in developing new technologies for the U.S. military and intelligence organizations. Officials declined to discuss specifics -—not surprising given that one of its main investors is In-Q-Tel, the strategic investment arm of the Central Intelligence Agency — but Button said the commercial lighting product comes directly from research done under government contracts.
This week, QD Vision was awarded a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant from the U.S. Army for the development of its technology for use in micro displays. According to Button, displays and related technologies are expected to be a significant market down the road.
For In-Q-Tel, which joins Lexington-based Highland Capital Partners and Waltham-based North Bridge Venture Partners as an investor, the product path is precisely why the firm invested in QD Vision in the first place.
“Its interesting sometimes how significant the overlap can be between the what the intelligence community needs and the commercial opportunities for a product,” said Donald Tighe, vice president of external affairs for In-Q-Tel. “QD Vision is a great example of that.”