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Quantum Dots Enhance Horticultural Efficiency of Sunlight in Greenhouses

Quantum Dots Enhance Horticultural Efficiency of Sunlight in Greenhouses

Horticultural lighting remains a hot topic as increasingly food, flowers, and cannabis are grown in controlled environment agriculture (CEA) settings either indoors or in greenhouses. Greenhouses have been thought by many to offer the best of both the outdoor world via sun exposure to plants and the ability to control the environment to a significant degree. But now UbiQD and Nanosys say they can improve the use of sunlight energy for greenhouse operations by leveraging quantum dots (QDs) and shifting the spectra in a way that allows plants to better utilize the radiated energy that is critical for photosynthesis and other plant-growth phenomena.

So this story is not about LED technology where manufacturers have long sought to replicate the spectral power distribution (SPD) of the sun. But in essence, research on LED-based horticultural lighting set the stage for this development. We have regularly described how solid-state lighting (SSL) enables growers to only deliver the wavelengths that plants require, and thereby optimize energy usage. For example, there are chlorophyll absorption peaks in the red and blue regions that are key to photosynthesis. We have also written about other important wavelengths such as in coverage of our HortiCann Light + Tech event and the earlier Horticultural Lighting Conferences.

Still, the horticultural lighting sector has been most focused on the 400–700-nm range of wavelengths that are referred to as photosynthetically active radiation (PAR). And the UbiQD and Nanosys news relates to converting some of the sun’s energy from outside the PAR range into PAR energy. The companies simplified the concept, saying that their technology creates “more photosynthetically efficient orange light that plants crave.”

The secret sauce is the QDs and Nanosys is one of the largest manufacturers of those nanoparticles. UbiQD takes those QDs and embeds them into UbiGro plastic films or sheets that can be applied to the surface of the greenhouse.

QDs have been widely used in TV and display applications. The particles can be activated optically or electrically. If such a particle absorbs a photon from the sun or other source, it will in turn emit a photon of a different color in a similar manner to how phosphors operate when used with LEDs to make white light. The color or wavelength of light that a QD produces is based on the size of the particle. In particular, QDs produce much richer red wavelengths than do phosphors and thus the use in TVs to achieve a richer gamut. Nanosys allied with Samsung all the way back in 2010 and of course Samsung has been a leader in using QDs in TV applications.

Now in the horticultural sector, the QD technology may help increase the yield of greenhouses, even when used separately from LED technology. Of course, LED-based lighting is also used to supplement the sun in greenhouses, especially in northern regions where short days limit sun exposure.

And the opportunity for the QD suppliers may be substantial. “The greenhouse cover films market produces twenty times more area than the display industry and continues to grow in double digits on an annual basis,” said Jason Hartlove, CEO of Nanosys. “Greenhouses represent a massive opportunity for the unique benefits of quantum dot technology. We look forward to working with UbiQD to bring UbiGro to market with our industry-leading scale, cost-effectiveness, and highest-quality manufacturing standards.”

Learn more about the latest in horticultural lighting and other AgTech topics at HortiCann Light+Tech slated for Oct. 20 in San Jose, CA.


The Impact of Color on your plants
Hunter McDaniel CEO & Founder UbiGro

Hunter McDaniel, PhD

Founder & CEO

 Hunter earned a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, before joining Los Alamos National Laboratory in the Chemistry Division. Ultimately the value proposition of UbiGro is about boosting crop yields and quality without the cost or energy impact of lighting. Hunter has more than fifty publications and patents, and more than 2000 total citations, h-index: 20. Hunter fundamentally believes that novel materials underpin every significant technology advancement, and he is focused on leveraging new materials to have a lasting and sustainable impact.

Meet The Team

Damon Hebert, PhD

Director of Agriculture

Damon brings a wide range of experience in agriculture, materials science, spectroscopy, and small business. During his time in Prof. Angus Rockett’s research group at The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), Hebert authored a doctoral thesis and multiple papers on the materials science of CIGS semiconductor materials, which is closely related to the materials developed at UbiQD. He also served as a consultant to Nanosolar, a CIGS nanocrystal solar cell manufacturing company. Hebert has industry experience having co-founded Dr. Jolly’s, a leading cultivation and distribution operation in Bend, OR.

Meet The Team

Tania Lafaille

Sales Representative

Tania is a UbiGro Sales Representative, with over 7 years of experience in product sales (specifically berries and avocados) covering all of North America and parts of South America. While in agriculture, Tania has cultivated strong relationships with growers and distributors, granting her a unique insight into both perspectives. That understanding, paired with her fierce dedication to results, drives her fun and fiery commitment to her craft. Tania is based in Gilroy, CA.

Meet The Team

Tyler Veyna

Sales Representative​

Tyler brings 15 years of experience in Greenhouse production and facility management of a wide range of crops in multiple states to the UbiGro team. Based in Salinas, California. “Being a fourth-generation farmer, I look to improve and empower the grower, and with UbiGro, we can do just that.”

Meet The Team

Jim Gideon

Sales Manager

Jim Gideon is an UbiGro Sales Manager, with over 25 years of greenhouse industry sales experience covering all of North America. Previously Jim has worked for Green Tek, Plazit-Polygal, Texel, Cherry Creek, and Nexus. He is based in Montgomery, AL, and Jim believes that “light is everything to the grower.”

Meet The Team

Eric Moody

Director of Sales

Eric Moody is UbiQD’s Director of UbiGro Sales. Eric has more than 6 years of experience in horticulture lighting industry, building relationships with greenhouse growers of all sizes and crops on optimal lighting for their growing operation, and most recently managed a North American sales team for PL Light Systems. Overall, Eric has been in sales leadership positions for more than 13 years. Eric brings with him a great understanding of the market and available technologies for growers, greenhouse facilities, and sales leadership. Reach Eric by phone at 541-490-6421 or by email at [email protected].

Meet The Team

Mike Burrows, PhD

VP of Business Development

Dr. Michael Burrows is UbiQd’s Vice President of Business Development. His educational background includes a Materials Science doctorate from the University of Delaware and an MBA from Duke University Fuqua School of Business. His career has specialized in the commercialization of novel electronic materials in venture-run programs for different industries including solar, biosensors, and the automotive industry. In both start-up and corporate environments, he has extensive experience in global market development, foraging supply chain partnerships, productization, and brand building. He is currently leading UbiQD’s partnership efforts in luminescent greenhouse technology, smart windows, and security ventures.

Meet The Team

Matt Bergern, PhD

Cheif Product Officer

As Chief Product Officer at UbiQD, Dr. Matt Bergren leads the company’s product development efforts, sales, and product manufacturing, including the company’s first commercial agriculture product, UbiGro. He plays a critical role in continuing the company’s path of technology development and vision of powering product innovations in agriculture, clean energy, and security.

He serves as the principal investigator for UbiQD’s contract with NASA, focused on tailoring the solar spectrum for enhanced crop production for space missions. Dr. Bergren’s leadership experience includes serving on the board of directors for the New Mexico Energy Manufacturing Institute, focused on job creation in New Mexico’s energy, and related manufacturing community.