Scientists from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore have made a breakthrough in the development of high-tech contact lenses. These lenses have the ability to film footage and display information to the wearer, similar to what is seen in movies like Mission Impossible and the Netflix series Black Mirror.
The NTU team has created a saline-powered battery that is small enough to fit under a lens, bringing us one step closer to the creation of smart contact lenses – the ultimate goal of augmented reality. The battery is as thin as a human cornea and stores electricity when immersed in a special saline solution.
The battery cells are coated with glucose, which reacts with the sodium and chloride ions in the saline solution to generate an electric charge that powers the battery. This technology is similar to batteries used in wearables that are powered by human perspiration.
One of the key advantages of this contact lens battery is its flexibility. It can receive an hour’s worth of additional power while being worn, as the necessary ions are also present on the liquid layer of a person’s eyes. 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 is able to 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.
The design of this battery overcomes significant challenges in the development of smart lenses, such as weight and circuitry. This makes it possible for the lenses to be worn comfortably on a daily basis in the future. Additionally, the lens is safe to wear as it does not contain any metals and relies on glucose and water to generate electricity.
To ensure its safety, the team tested the lens on mammal cells and found no deterioration when in contact with the lens. However, it will still be several years before the lens can be tested on humans. The team is currently going through multiple levels of safety checks to guarantee its suitability for human use.
The research conducted by the NTU team was published in June, and they have since filed a patent through NTU’s innovation and enterprise arm, NTUitive. They are now working towards commercializing this groundbreaking invention.