Singapore Scientists Develop Saline-Powered Battery for Smart Contact Lenses
High-tech contact lenses that can record videos and display information to the wearer have long been a fascination in popular culture. Now, scientists from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore have made significant progress in making this concept a reality.
The team at NTU has developed a flexible battery that is as thin as a human cornea and can fit under a contact lens. This breakthrough could potentially pave the way for the development of smart contact lenses, which are considered the holy grail of augmented reality.
Associate Professor Lee Seok Woo, from NTU’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, explained that the battery cells are coated with glucose. When immersed in a special saline solution, the glucose reacts with the sodium and chloride ions to generate an electric charge that powers the battery. Similar technology is already used in batteries for wearables, which are powered by human perspiration.
One of the key challenges in creating smart lenses has been the weight and circuitry involved. However, the design of this new battery overcomes these obstacles, making it possible for daily wear in the future. The battery is embedded along the sides of a soft lens to ensure that vision is not obstructed.
Early tests have shown promising results. The battery can power a smart lens and continuously send a signal to a smartphone via Bluetooth for 12 hours. It can also be charged up to 200 times, with ongoing efforts to further improve its performance.
Safety is a top priority for the researchers. The battery does not contain any metals and relies on glucose and water to generate electricity, making it safe to wear. Mammal cell tests have shown no deterioration when in contact with the lens, indicating that it is biocompatible and not harmful to humans. However, further safety checks are required before testing on human eyes can take place.
The research team has already filed a patent through NTU’s innovation and enterprise arm, NTUitive, and is actively working towards commercializing this groundbreaking invention. While it may still be years away from being available to the public, the development of a saline-powered battery brings us one step closer to the future of smart contact lenses.