“Science is imagination in a straightjacket” - Richard Feynman

Quantum is a daunting word. Quantum is a disobedience of the rules that bind our understanding of the world around us. Lines twist, particles have double lives, and the security of understanding begins unraveling.

Imagination follows no rules, no formula, no discipline. According to Oxford Dictionary, “[Imagination is] the action of forming… concepts… not present to the senses.” It is eerie, how close to home that hits when “quantum” walks in. We, as humans, try to rationalize things that are intangible with experiments and equations. Yet quantum is still not well understood, so there is an unavoidable level of fear about the concept. We fear—whether in the shape of fascination, hate, or indifference—the things we do not know.

Put simply, Quantum Dots are semi-conductive particles. This means that they can conduct electrical current under specific conditions. That is what makes Quantum Dots unique. Semiconductors exist in a bulk phase, such as a silicon crystal. To become particles, they go from their bulk to the level of nano. Think of it as cutting into the material by slicing into sheets so thin, they are only a few nanoparticles thick. The semiconductor has transitioned into the

exfoliated phases. A substance in an “exfoliated phase” has simply gone through a process that has turned its original three-dimensional structure into two-dimensional nanosheets. Hence, Quantum Dots are also known as semi-conductive nano-crystals. This transformation is magical; the compound starts exhibiting different electronic and optical properties. Under UV light, the Quantum Dots will show an array of colors. These are all derived from the same bulk material, and the only difference is the particle size.

Taking a step back, a black rock has transformed into a glowing rainbow of colors. Is that not magical? Before the science, it is a work of imagination. How can it suddenly start to glow? Break up a piece of chalk into one hundred pieces, it is still white. So how can this happen? The lines of science begin to blur.

Quantum Dots bring nearly endless possibilities. Semiconductors are key components in technology. Now that they are at the scale of nano, they can foster the advancement of photovoltaics (solar panels), be utilized as catalysts in chemistry, improve photoconductors and photodetectors, and revolutionize familiar technologies like light emitting diodes (LEDs). Who knows, maybe all light bulbs will be filled with Quantum Dots one day. Biomedicine has started experimenting too, testing transdermal patches that can dose medicine and innovating cellular imaging to new horizons.

Rocks are glowing, needles may be a thing of the past, and the future is limitless. As Professor Moungi Bawendi and his teammates have proven, science can swerve closer to imagination than you might think. So, imagine. You might just make it a reality someday.