21st Century Contact Lens Technology: LCD Computer Display Embedded into Contact Lens

Occular devices took a major leap forward into the 21st century this last week with the announcement of a contact lens with an LCD computer display embedded in it.

The Center of Microsystems Technology, IMEC’s associated laboratory from Ghent University in Belgium announced on Thursday, December 6, 2012 it had developed a spherical curved LCD display microchip which can be embedded in contact lenses. This is a major breakthrough and the first step towards fully pixilated contact lens displays with the potential for widespread application in the Medical and Cosmetic industries.

The Interuniversity Microelectronics Center (IMEC) is a micro and nano electronics research center located in the city of Leuven, Belgium with offices and research facilities in the Netherlands, Taiwan, USA, China, India and Japan

Current LED contact lens technology limits the amount of pixels able to be displayed on the surface of the contact lens. However IMEC’s innovative LCD-based technology allows for the complete pixelation of the complete entire displayed surface area to be used.

The initial prototype, still very rudimentary in its abilities, is similar to an electronic pocket calculator. Researchers foresee the next generation prototype as a fully autonomous electronic contact lens, embedded with a display that can be used for medical purposes.

Scientists initially envisioned this discovery for medical purposes perhaps to control the light transmission toward the retina in the eye in case of a damaged iris. However it may have broader consumer and civilian applications as well.

“Normally, flexible displays using liquid crystal cells are not designed to be formed into a new shape, especially not a spherical one. Thus, the main challenge was to create a very thin, spherically curved substrate with active layers that could withstand the extreme molding processes,” said Jelle De Smet, the projects lead researcher. “Moreover, since we had to use very thin polymer films, their influence on the smoothness of the display had to be studied in detail. By using new kinds of conductive polymers and integrating them into a smooth spherical cell, we were able to fabricate a new LCD-based contact lens display.”

The military applications are obvious, giving soldiers on the ground computer aided technology available right within their field of vision.

Watch this two-minute video to get the full scoop on the new contact lenses.

Article by Jim Donahue