The first step toward fully pixilated contact lens displays, the achievent has potential for wide-spread applications in medical and cosmetic domains.
(the smart lens has an innovative LCD display)
Unlike LED-based contact lens displays, which are limited to a few small pixels, the innovative LCD-based technology permits the use of the entire display surface. By adapting the patterning process of the conductive layer, the technology enables applications with a broad range of pixel number and sizes, such as a one pixel, fully covered contact lens acting as adaptable sunglasses, or a highly pixilated contact lens display.
The first prototype presented contains a patterned dollar sign, depicting the many cartoons that feature people or figures with dollars in their eyes. It can only display rudimentary patterns, similar to an electronic pocket calculator.
However, in the future, the researchers envision fully-autonomous electronic contact lenses bedded with the display.
The next-generation solutions could be used for medical purposes, for example to control the light transmission toward the retina in case of a damaged iris, or for cosmetic purposes such as an iris with a tuneable colour.
In the future, the display could also function as a head-up display, superimposing an image onto the user’s normal view. However, there are still hurdles to overcome for broader consumer and civilian implentation.
Normally, flexible displays using liquid crystal cells are not designed to be formed into a new shape, especially not a spherical one. So, the main challenge was to create a very thin, spherically curved substrate with active layers that could withstand the extre molding processes,” Dr Jelle De Smet, the main researcher on the project, said.
“Moreover, since we had to use very thin polymer films, their influence on the smoothness of the display had to be studied in detail. By using new kinds of conductive polymers and integrating th into a smooth spherical cell, we were able to fabricate a new LCD-based contact lens display.”