Designing a Better QDot Demo

November 18, 2017

by Karine Thate

Our original QD display kit from Nanosys Inc.
Top: Viewed under regular room lighting.
Bottom: Viewed while illuminated by UV light.

For the original QSTORM project (2010-2015), we used a set of quantum dot vials in a special display case from Nanosys Inc. (sold by Cenco Physics) for stage presentations and hands-on demonstrations to show museum visitors the beautiful, bright colors emitted by these tiny nanocrystals. Over several years of constant use, we noticed the quantum dots were no longer as bright as they used to be and needed to be replaced. Last year, we discovered that Cenco Physics had discontinued this product and Nanosys was no longer making QDots for these kinds of display kits, so we needed to find a new supplier. While there are a number of companies out there supplying quantum dots for research purposes, we had trouble finding a company that sold a display kit like the one we were looking for. We wanted to show an array of bright colors, but also have the QDot vials packaged for easy handling and to be safe for use around our museum visitors.

Our new QD display kit from NN-Labs.
Top: Viewed under regular room lighting.
Bottom: Viewed while illuminated by UV light.

Jessica suggested we reach out to NN-Labs, an industry leader in making high-quality, bright quantum dots. They had a selection of traditional Cadmium-based quantum dots and less toxic Cadmium-free quantum dots, which were an attractive option for a museum setting where we’re focused on the safety of our visitors. After some discussion with NN-Labs’ helpful staff, we decided on a display kit with the brighter and longer-lasting Cadmium Selenide/Zinc Sulfide quantum dots, which were embedded in a cured polymer for easy handling and better safety, eliminating any hazard from possible spills. We’ve been using them for approximately one year in two of our stage presentations that feature Jessica and her lab’s work with quantum dots: Making Molecular Movies with QSTORM, and From Chemical Engineer to Cancer Warrior.  The QDot kits are bright, easy to use, and we find them an improvement over our old display kit.  In fact, we liked them so much, we ordered two more kits – one for Jessica to use in her outreach, and another for an interactive hands-on activity we were designing…

I’ll let my colleague, Megan Litwhiler, tell you more about that in a future blog post. Stay tuned!