When it comes to cutting-edge modern TV technologies, you’ve got quantum dots, and you’ve got OLED. One promises mind-blowingly rich colors, the other mind-blowingly rich contrast ratios. 

Combining these two technologies would be a great step, and according to a recent report in a Korean tech site (ETNews, via FlatpanelsHD), that’s exactly what Samsung is doing. Rumors started earlier this year, but the current report claims that Samsung is now working with Canon and Kateeva to create a “pilot line,” manufacturing speak for a test run at mass production. Via a Google Translate of the ETNews report:

“In order to secure the next generation of large-scale display technology, it is necessary to deviate from the large-sized panel business limited to the liquid crystal display (LCD). QD-OLED equipment and materials, and plans to use the pilot line until the second half of next year.”

The second half of next year could mean we’ll see QD-OLED TVs in stores as early as 2020. There’s a lot to assess, however, and their previous comments about this tech is that they’re still ironing out the kinks, so 2020 might be optimistic.

Representatives from Samsung had no comment on the report.

How QD-OLED would work

The tech behind this rumor isn’t as far-fetched as it seems. Combining quantum dots and OLED could play to the strengths of both technologies. As noted in the report, Samsung appears to be moving forward with a design that uses a blue OLED material powering red and green quantum dots. This is similar to how Samsung’s QLED TVs work currently, with blue LEDs creating the blue light, and red and green QDs creating that light.

A simplified diagram of how a QD/OLED hybrid would work. A blue OLED material would create all the blue light, plus the light energy that red and green quantum dots would use to create red and green light.


Samsung

The advantages to this method are, in theory, multi-fold. By using only one color/material of OLED, the manufacturing costs go way down since it’s easier to manufacture. LG, for instance, uses only two OLED materials, blue and yellow, for every pixel across the entire display. Light-blocking color filters create the green and red. QDs have nearly 100% efficiency, significantly better than filters, so in theory the hybrid TVs will be much brighter. Plus, there’s the possibility of even wider color gamuts at all brightness levels.

Because each pixel can be shut off, these hybrid TVs will also have the incredible contrast ratios that OLED is known for. 

Samsung QLED vs. LG OLED TV: What’s the difference?

Since blue OLED materials still age faster than red and green, by having the entire panel one color this means the TV ages evenly with no color shift. Keeping that aging to a minimum, and thereby having a TV that doesn’t seem dim after a few years, is one of the key manufacturing issues. This is especially true in this HDR era of extreme brightness levels.

qd-oled-hybrid-from-nanosys

How Nanosys envisions a QD/OLED hybrid working. Instead of OLED, blue microLEDs could be used in a similar design.


Nanosys

While this report focuses on TV-size displays, the technology could work in phone-sized displays as well. Since Samsung doesn’t seem to have any issue making excellent small OLEDs, I’d be surprised if they’re in any rush to upset that market with something as advanced as this.

Into the future

According to UBI Research, Samsung’s display division has an operating margin of 3.6 percent, while LG’s, thanks to OLED, is 8.1 percent. It’s a lot easier to make money with more margin, especially in the notoriously slim-margined TV industry. So Samsung’s interest here goes beyond “what’s the coolest TV we can make?”

It’s also possible, probably even likely, that LG is working on a similar QD/OLED hybrid. It’s the logical next step for OLED before whatever next generation of TV tech arrives.

And what might that be? Well, the quantum dot folks seem to think direct-view quantum dot displays are just a few years off. These would have all the benefits of OLED, all the benefits of QD and none of issues of LCD or the wear and longevity concerns of OLED.

direct-view-qd

The ultimate quantum dot display. No more LCD at all, just direct view, electroluminescent quantum dots. This is essentially how OLED works, but instead of organic light emitting materials, it’s quantum dots.


Nanosys

But Samsung is also putting money into microLED, which has many of the same benefits as this QD/OLED hybrid, also uses QD, and doesn’t muck around with those pesky organics.

We shall see.


Got a question for Geoff? First, check out all the other articles he’s written on topics like why all HDMI cables are the same, TV resolutions explained, LED LCD vs. OLED and more.

Still have a question? Tweet at him @TechWriterGeoff, then check out his travel photography on Instagram. He also thinks you should check out his best-selling sci-fi novel and its sequel. 

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