Nanoco Technologies, which spun out of Manchester University in 2001, is commercialising fluorescent nano-crystalline particles (or quantum dots) of semiconductor materials that have unique chemical, electronic and optical properties thanks to their small size. The dots, which are so small that 80,000 of them can fit across the width of a single human hair, have applications in biological marking and flatscreen televisions. But they can also be used in cleantech applications like low-energy lighting and next-generation photovoltaic cells.
Quantum dots work by absorbing energy, usually in the form of ultraviolet light, and then emitting bright-coloured visible light. The colour emitted by a particular quantum dot depends upon its size: it can be tuned for visible emission between two and ten nanometres. For example, a 2nm quantum dot emits blue light, while a 10nm dot will emit red.
According to Nanoco, solid state lighting that mixes red and green quantum dots and applies them to a blue light-emitting diode (LED) can be used to produce white light very efficiently.
The company estimates that LED lighting which includes quantum dots is at least twice as efficient as mercury-discharge lighting and up to 60 times more efficient than incandescent light bulbs.
In the solar energy arena, Nanoco says initial research has shown that the use of quantum dots can potentially improve sunlight conversion efficiencies to levels of 40% plus,compared with 10-20% using traditional photovoltaic devices.
The takeover means that Evolutec will change its name to Nanoco Group and will have approximately £8.1 million of net funds. Dealings in the enlarged group’s shares are expected to begin at the end of April.
Existing investors in Nanoco include UK venture capital funds: the Manchester Technology Fund, the North West Business Investment Scheme and the North West Seed Fund.
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