The future of contact lenses looks extremely bright, literally. Night-vision contact lenses are a step closer to being established after researchers created a tiny infrared light detector which is small enough to fit on a contact lens.
According to a Sky report, scientist Zhaihui Zhong, of the University of Michigan, said that unlike comparable infrared night detectors available which require cooling equipment to work, the night-vision contact lenses can run at room temperature. The design is built so slim “it can be stacked on a contact lens or integrated with a cell phone,” Zhong told Sky News.
The research team began developing the night-vision lenses with a graphene. A graphene is a single layer of carbon atoms that can sense the entire spectrum of infrared. However, currently the lens can only absorb approximately 2% of the light that hits the it. This means it cannot regularly produce a detectable electrical signal.The infrared detector is currently the size of a small fingernail. The team however says the size can easily be scaled down.
“The challenge for the current generation of graphene-based detectors is that their sensitivity is typically very poor. It’s a hundred to a thousand times lower than
what a commercial device would require. If we integrate it with a contact lens
or other wearable electrons, it expands your vision”
said Professor Zhong.
Contact lenses are increasingly being integrated and utilised into innovative modern technology. Earlier this year Google unveiled ‘smart contact lenses’, designed to help people living with diabetes monitor sugar levels in their blood. Using a miniature wireless chip and a tiny glucose sensor embedded between two layers of lens material, the ‘smart contact lens’ can measure glucose levels in tears.
The smart contact lenses are so small that, according to Google, they look like bits of glitter. The company also added that a “lot more work” was required to perfect the lenses before the technology can be worn everyday.
“It’s still early days for this technology, but we’ve completed multiple clinical research studies which are helping to refine our prototype,” Google said in a blog post.
Exciting times for wearable technology
There has been a significant increase in the number of companies looking to develop in the wearable technology sector. It has to be said, innovative contact lenses seem to be at the forefront of the current drive for wearable technology.
Last year plans for the ‘Contact Lens Computer‘ were unveiled. Soft contact lenses that could display information to the wearer and provide continuous medical monitoring are being developed. Built by several research institutions, including Samsung, the innovative contact lenses use new nanomaterials to solve some of the problems that have made contact lens medical monitoring and displays not a practical or viable solution.
From lenses that give you bright blue eyes when your natural color is brown to night-vision contacts creating a “new way to detect light”, it seems that virtually anything is possible with contact lenses.