Quantum dots are semiconductor nanocrystals that fluoresce when excited by a light source, emitting bright colours that can identify and track properties and processes in various biological applications.
Despite its bulk form, QD's exhibit a transformation in their optical, electronic, magnetic or even chemical properties when manifesting below a critical dimension (typically <10nm).
They have significant advantages over traditional fluorophores as they can be predictably tuned according to their size, shape and intrinsic solid-state properties. Their flexibility means it has applications in cell biology, drug discovery, cancer research and other fields.
The report, compiled by Business Communications Company (BCC), states that the current total global market for QDs is currently estimated at $10 million. The report notes the emergence of QD bioconjugates, a generic term to describe nanocrystals coupled to proteins, oligonucleotides, small molecules, etc. which are used to direct binding of the QDs to areas of interest.
Figures from BCC research suggest that from a breakdown of the Biology/Medicine sector, the global market for stand alone QD's in 2005 was $13 million. This is expected to reach $37.2 million by 2009.
The market for quantum dot instruments after initial launch (expected 2006) is expected to reach $156 million.
In the next five years applications of QDs will become more pervasive transcending life sciences and biomedical areas as well as other industrial sectors such as electronics and optoelectronics. By 2009, assuming QDs establish a proven market niche, revenue generation is projected to exceed $500 million.
The report, entitled RGB-278 Quantum Dots: Technical Status and Market Prospects, identified two prominent areas. In-situ fabrication via expensive molecular beam epitaxy or chemical vapour deposition hardware traditionally used in the electronics and optoelectronic industries.
Currently only available in small quantities (typically <kilogram) and prohibitively expensive ($3000 to $10,000/g) due to their remarkable fluorescence imaging sensitivity and the small quantities required, they have fulfilled the needs of users in the biological sciences and biomedical communities.
The other area, stand alone colloidal QDs prepared by wet chemical methods are expected to graduate from specialty into commodity market applications, driven by market demand.
Important evolutions are expected to cause a radical change in pricing with strong market pull arising from future product integrations between QD producers and multinational corporations.
Based on recent technical and business literature, new developments offer the promise of QDs at only $250/kg based on improved reaction methods and green chemistry, as well as the use of less toxic semiconductor or other nanocrystalline QD materials.
Following the initial success of QD bioconjugates, launched in 2002, several important commercial partnerships are driving a new market initiative in analytical instruments primarily targeting the life sciences community. In the next 2 years these product offerings are expected to increase QD manufacturers' revenues significantly.
It is projected that in all of these markets the combined forces of technology push and market pull primarily due to the involvement of multinational companies, will lead to a marked increase in QD production. Accordingly, this will result in exponential revenue growth for these remarkable nanomaterials.
The report also mentions the progress made in the self-assembly of colloidal-QDs. Several industrial and academic laboratories are mastering growth of 2 and 3-D device structures of macroscopic dimensions. These developments should bode well in further exploiting the properties of QDs and enabling future bottom-up nanoscale device integration leading to a whole new realm of product applications.