Quantum dots are sometimes referred to as 'designer molecules' because some of their properties can be precisely controlled, such as the frequencies of light they react to. While this ability could make them very useful for a myriad of studies and technologies, there are several issues with quantum dots, such as the light they emit being dim or blinking on and off. Now researchers at MIT have developed a new kind of quantum dot which actually does not suffer these disadvantages.
One potential use for quantum dots is as medical markers, where they are attached to a cell or other biological component. By shining an ultraviolet light on the sample, the dots will light up in a different color, allowing one to follow it, but because of how quickly they may be moving, if the dot blinks off or produces too broad a spectrum of light, it can be lost. By slowly growing the new quantum dots in solution, the researchers were able to produce dots that stay lit 94% of the time and have a single frequency peak, without having to make them too large to be useable. Another property of the dots is a very high 97% energy efficiency rating, which should be useful if the slow-growing method is adapted for large scale manufacture.
The researchers believe that we could see these dots being used as soon as two years from now, and those uses may not be limited to medical tests. Solid state lighting and displays could utilize these dots, but only time will tell how great their potential is.