Forget QD-OLED and microLED, QDEL is the ultimate in future display tech

Know your QD-OLED from your QLED? And your mini-LED from your microLED? Good, because there’s a new display tech in town, it’s called QDEL and it might just be better than all of them.

Digital Trends got some brief eyeball time with the new panel tech, being developed by Sharp, at the CES show. As you might have guessed, the “QD” part of the name involves quantum dots, the same tiny particles used in QD-OLED panels and LCD screens with QLED backlights.

The idea with quantum dots, thus far, has involved their ability to absorb light and then kick it back out at a very specific frequency, effectively purifying the light and also adding efficiency compared to traditional colour filters used in both OLED and LCD panels to do the same job.

But what if you could use QD materials not to absorb light from another source and re-emit it, but to be the light source itself? Then you’d have the holy grail, in other words, an emissive quantum dot display. Enter the QDEL or Quantum Dot Electro Luminescent display.

Instead of shining light on the quantum dots to activate them, QDEL does the job with electricity. So, you get all the benefits of OLED, like per-pixel lighting, perfect black levels, and extremely low response times, but without the downsides of OLED, including QD-OLED.

The most obvious of which for OLED is that it’s an organic material that wears out. But it’s also quite expensive to manufacture because it requires vacuum conditions for production. QDEL doesn’t need that and, indeed, Sharp says it can be produced in the same facilities as standard LCD panels, even using the same machinery.

Sharp showed off a couple of very early QDEL prototype panels at CES. (Image credit: Digital Trends)

That’s important because it means QDEL should be cost-effective to produce and can be scaled out to large panels, with no problem. In theory, anyway. The overall upshot, again in theory, is a new self-emissive, per-pixel panel tech with the best colour accuracy and purity of any display ever. Oh, and it won’t burn in like OLED.

Screen queens

(Image credit: Future)

Best gaming monitor: Pixel-perfect panels for your PC.
Best high refresh rate monitor: Screaming quick.
Best 4K monitor for gaming: When only high-res will do.
Best 4K TV for gaming: Big-screen 4K gaming.

From here the big question, after price, is when? Sharp demonstrated a pair of small prototype panels, one 12-inch and one 30-inch, and has no immediate plans for products you can buy.

The company was showing off the technology to potential customers at the CES 2024 event, those customers being companies that produce devices, not end users like us.

So, QDEL is not around the corner. But the overlap in manufacturing terms with plain old LCD panels does suggest we’re not a decade away from seeing the first QDEL panels in devices for sale. Digital Trends reckons QDEL panels could be made in existing LCD factories with no need to build new facilities.

It may well be that the first QDEL displays are only just a few years away. Could QDEL beat microLED to market in terms of vaguely affordable screens that PC gamers might buy? It does seem possible.

Watch this space.

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