ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Greenhouse growers can now bathe their crops in yield-boosting, late-summer-like sun rays all year round courtesy of Los Alamos startup Ubiquitous Quantum Dots.
UbiQD Inc. launched commercial sales of its red-light emitting window film for the first time this week, marking a major milestone for the 4-year-old company, and possibly a ground-breaking advance for greenhouse production.
The company says its film can boost crop yields by 10 percent or more by using quantum dots that shift sunshine into a red-light-emitting spectrum that mimics late-summer sun year-round. That’s considered the most potent time of year for plants because they sense winter coming and grow faster, said UbiQD CEO Hunter McDaniel.
“We’ve been testing it in greenhouses in commercial settings for about a year and a half now,” McDaniel said. “We’ve seen yield improvements in excess of 10 percent in numerous crops.”
The company is now selling rolls of quantum-dot-coated film as a simple retrofit that attaches to the undersides of greenhouse windows.
“You just string it up under any existing structure,” McDaniel said. “It’s quick and easy to install, so growers can test it out in sections before laying it out across acres of production.”
The film is currently installed in five commercial greenhouses in New Mexico, Oregon and Colorado, where growers are producing tomatoes, cucumbers, cannabis and hemp.
The film can last four to five years. It currently sells for $10 per square foot, but the company expects the price to drop over time, and McDaniel said growers can quickly earn back their investment through higher yields in just a few months.
The new “UbiGro” film is UbiQD’s first commercial product since launching in 2014. The company developed a low-cost, low-toxic process for making quantum dots, which are tiny, three-dimensional structures that manipulate light in unique ways. They’re used in everything from transistors and sunscreen to LCD televisions and smartphones.
The company is also building photovoltaic window coatings to generate electricity for buildings.
UbiQD uses a copper and zinc base in its manufacturing process, which it licensed from Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. LANL recently completed extensive testing for toxicity that showed the product is “extremely safe,” McDaniel said.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved UbiGro for commercial sales this month.