Scientists from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore have made a breakthrough in the development of smart contact lenses. They have created a saline-powered battery that is small enough to fit under a lens, bringing us one step closer to the futuristic technology seen in movies like Mission Impossible and Black Mirror.
The team at NTU has developed a flexible battery, as thin as a human cornea, that can store electricity when immersed in a special saline solution. Associate Professor Lee Seok Woo, from NTU’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, explained that the battery cells are coated with glucose, which reacts with the sodium and chloride ions in the saline solution to generate an electric charge. This charge powers the battery, similar to how batteries for wearables are powered by human perspiration.
One of the key challenges in creating smart contact lenses has been the weight and circuitry of the devices. However, the design of this new battery overcomes these challenges, 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 improve its performance.
Safety is a top priority for the researchers. The lens has been tested on mammal cells and showed no deterioration, indicating that it is biocompatible and safe for humans. However, further safety checks are required before testing it on human eyes.
The team at NTU has filed a patent for their invention and is working towards commercializing it. While it may still be years away from being available for human use, this breakthrough brings us closer to the reality of high-tech contact lenses that can film footage and display information to the wearer.