03 February 2008
Researchers at the University of Washington led by Babak Parviz, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at the University of Washington, created a bionic contact lens. This contact lens is embedded with light-emitting diodes, electronic circuits and small antenna. Therefore, it is possible to see an image through contact lens. In the future, this research can be developed into a flexible display screen contact lens where people can surf internet or watch TV show through contact lens. This research can transform and benefit mobile device manufacturers if it is successful.

The researchers overcame obstacles to integrate the fabrication process for microchips, light-emitting diodes, and polymers used for contact lenses. The layer on top has electronics circuits that is as thin as one-thousandth of the width of a human hair and diodes are very small that almost 100 of them can fit in one inch. To bind circuits with the lens, the researchers constructed a multiple receptor sites that attracted a different component by mimicking capillary forces that plants used to push water up thought their roots. For this prototype, the lens surface hold antenna, metal wires for the circuits, and red light-emitting diodes on the lens surface.

Even though bionic lens is a very promising technology, there are some issues and challenges. Researchers now are focusing on the image quality of the lens because to see an object, human’s normal focus is 25 centimeters in front of the eyes. However, image is now right at the surface of the contact lens. Also, they are trying to find a way to provide adequate power for the contact lens. Currently, the prototype’s antenna can collect radio frequency waves and turn them into energy. The goal of this contact lens is to let user wear this device comfortably and so far, tested rabbits can tolerate bionic lenses for 20 minutes.

(via msnbc , image credit: University of Washington)