The visualization of accurate colour information using quantum dots has been explored for decades, and commercial products employing environmentally friendly materials are currently available as backlights1. However, next-generation electroluminescent displays based on quantum dots require the development of an efficient and stable cadmium-free blue-light-emitting device, which has remained a challenge because of the inferior photophysical properties of blue-light-emitting materials2,3. Here we present the synthesis of ZnSe-based blue-light-emitting quantum dots with a quantum yield of unity. We found that hydrofluoric acid and zinc chloride additives are effective at enhancing luminescence efficiency by eliminating stacking faults in the ZnSe crystalline structure. In addition, chloride passivation through liquid or solid ligand exchange leads to slow radiative recombination, high thermal stability and efficient charge-transport properties. We constructed double quantum dot emitting layers with gradient chloride content in a light-emitting diode to facilitate hole transport, and the resulting device showed an efficiency at the theoretical limit, high brightness and long operational lifetime. We anticipate that our efficient and stable blue quantum dot light-emitting devices can facilitate the development of electroluminescent full-colour displays using quantum dots.