Researchers in Singapore Develop Micrometer-Thin Battery Powered by Tears for Smart Contact Lenses

A team of researchers in Singapore has made a breakthrough in the development of smart contact lenses by creating a micrometer-thin battery that can store energy from human tears. This battery could potentially power smart contact lenses, allowing users to receive turn-based directions, notifications, and other easily presentable data without the need for bulkier smart glasses.

Powering small contact lenses has been a challenge due to the limitations of battery technology. While display technology has become incredibly small, batteries have not kept pace, resulting in the need for an impractical wire leading to an external power source for smart contact lenses.

Lead author Lee Seok Woo, an associate professor at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore, explained, “This research began with a simple question: could contact lens batteries be recharged with our tears?” The team’s findings were published in the journal Nano Energy.

A Safe and Environmentally Friendly Solution

The newly developed battery relies on glucose and water to generate electricity, making it safe for humans and less harmful to the environment compared to conventional batteries. The battery is constructed using biocompatible materials and features a glucose-based coating that can react with sodium and chloride ions found in tears to generate electricity and power a circuit.

In experiments, the battery produced a current of 45 microamperes at a maximum output of 201 microwatts, which is enough to power a smart contact lens. This elegant solution eliminates the need for bulky wireless charging.

Coauthor Li Zongkang, a PhD student at NTU, explained, “By combining the battery and biofuel cell into a single component, the battery can charge itself without the need for additional space for wired or wireless components.”

Future Implications and Challenges

While this technology is still in its early stages and far from entering the mainstream market, the research team is already collaborating with contact lens companies to bring this innovative technology to consumers. However, there are still limitations to overcome, as the tiny battery can only be charged and discharged 200 times.

The development of a micrometer-thin battery powered by tears opens up exciting possibilities for the future of smart contact lenses. As advancements continue, we may see a day when these lenses become a common and convenient tool for accessing information and enhancing our daily lives.

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