- Posted September 29, 2013 by
The Fully Functional Active Contact Lenses
Contact lenses have been in use for many years, both for cosmetic purposes and for correcting vision. Advancement in contact lens technology has also been a continuous process. Lenses have also evolved from being made from glass to polymers and then to hydrogels. There is talk of even further development by turning contact lenses into functional microsystems and to integrate display and sensing components in them.
Remember how Tom Cruise used to take pictures in Mission Impossible with his eye just by blinking? Well, with this new invention, the active contact lens may not be science fiction anymore. The Active Contact lens is based on the idea of an in-eye display system. A new patent has been assigned to the University of Washington for an active contact lens that features an energy transfer antenna. The antenna powers a display drive circuit that is in communication with a data communications circuit. Light emitting diodes are also powered through the energy transfer antenna.
The contact lens has a biosensor that contains a functionalized silicon nanostructure and a portable radio frequency mobile power supply. The user can attach this power supply to his belt or to a base station. The biosensor can measure temperature, heart rate etc. and has the ability to send this information back to the lenses' base station through a radio signal. The biosensors also allow the continuous sampling of the interstitial fluid on the cornea.
While development has been made in ocular display technology previously, this particular invention has microscale electronic components that are positioned directly on the surface of the contact lens thus minimizing the need to look toward a fixed device. It also enables real information display. The active lens has an image display that employs image transformation algorithms. Each pixel on this image display forms a collimated beam that is projected on the retina and helps the user process the image.
This latest invention can have applications in many segments including healthcare, entertainment and information. It can be used in gaming applications, virtual reality and for military purposes. Since the biosensor of this lens has significant ability to measure temperature etc., it can be also be used to monitor a patient's health (for e.g. monitor blood glucose levels in diabetics etc.). It can also be used in infrared cameras, tele-lenses, high-resolution color displays and so on.
Since these contact lenses are expected to have a see-through display that is powered and controlled by a wireless link, it can be used for several purposes. It can be used for gaming or aiding the deaf or as substitutes for mobile phone or PDA displays. Enabling it to generate images can also be useful in training and manufacturing industries.
The active contact lenses have been tested in live rabbits for up to 20 minutes and no adverse effects were observed. The research is based on the premise that micron-scale functional devices can be made in incompatible microfabrication processes and can be integrated onto plastics through self-assembly. Self-assembly would be a key element for the successful construction of these contact lenses.
Thus, it is evident that the day when we have a stand-alone wireless contact lens with a set of biosensors that can monitor the biochemical environment of the eye, is not far away. Much research is being put into it and a large number of potential applications of this new invention have already been determined. Further testing and development efforts can make this invention a reality very soon and can provide the informational, entertainment and the medical industry with a new and improved device that has advanced technology and features.