Why it matters: The latest display technology researched by Canon could revolutionize the market and influence modern global geopolitics. The Japanese conglomerate has seemingly created a new quantum dot material that doesn't need rare earths to show its semiconducting capabilities.
Quantum dots are one of the most promising advancements in display technology as they don't need a backlight source to show the vivid colors coming out of our digital devices. The semiconductor material releases the energy it receives as light, showing different colors depending on its size. Quantum dots are extremely efficient in their light-emitting process, but they are usually manufactured with rare-earth metals.
Canon said its new material for organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panels doesn't need rare elements. The novel quantum dots developed by the Japanese company have a diameter of just one nanometer, and they use lead in place of rare earths and compounds such as indium phosphide employed by competing OLED display manufacturers.
Compared to rare-earth elements, lead is very easy to procure by recycling raw material. But lead compounds are usually less durable that those made with indium. Thanks to its expertise with toner and ink compounds for office equipment, Canon seemingly found a way to create a lead-based compound which provides the same durability as indium.
Lead is easily reusable, and it costs much less than rare-earth metals. Canon's technology could have a cost that's just one-hundredth of the quantum dots employed by Samsung in its OLED displays. Therefore, new monitors and OLED TVs with lead-based quantum dots should also provide a significant price reduction to end consumers.
According to German research firm Statista, China was the source of 59 percent (530 tons) of the world's total indium production in 2022 alone. Beijing's Communist dictatorship is turning itself into a hoarder of natural resources, trying to leverage its deposits of essential elements for digital devices to increase its influence on global geopolitics.
Another research firm (Global Information) expects the global market for quantum dots to reach a market value of $21.1 billion in 2027, which is 4.1 times larger compared to 2021. The number of OLED TV sets employing quantum dots is expected to increase to 22 million units in 2025, British research firm Omdia said, accounting for eight percent of the entire TV market. A Japan-made quantum dot technology would be extremely beneficial in easing the (geopolitical) pain that comes with reliance on China's rare-earth deposits.