Computer screens in your eyes could replace bulky monitors in future, thanks to a new polymer coating material developed by Australian researchers that can turn contact lenses into displays.
The team behind the invention believes the technology could be used in many applications in the emerging wearables sector. Instead of impractical smart glasses, the user would have all the information they need displayed right within the eye.
“We have always known that our film coating technologies had potential for many applications and now we have taken that step further by proving that we can make biocompatible, conducting polymers at the nanoscale and grow them directly on a contact lens,” said associate professor Drew Evans from the University of South Australia’s Future Industries Institute (UniSA), who is leading the research.
The innovative polymer conducts electricity and can be used to build miniature electrical circuits that are biologically safe. It can be used to make anything from single-purpose health sensors to possibly complex screens for displaying information and images.
“We’ve proven that these materials go together and the next phase of the project is to make them stick and make them robust,” Evans said.
“The sky’s the limit and the work we’re doing with our industry partner aims to give them a game-changing technology. Obviously the time frame to go from where we are now to each of these different applications is unknown but it’s the first step towards being able to do a lot of that.”
The team, which previously developed the world’s first fully plastic car mirrors and electrochromic windows, has worked on the polymer for the past two years.
The researchers are working with UK contact lens maker Contamac, hoping to get the technology from lab to practical applications and large-scale manufacturing.
“The excitement from the industry point of view is that this opens up a range of new opportunities for their businesses,” Evans said.
“The next big leap is to develop complementary technologies to read the information transmitted by the conducting polymers."
The complete proof of concept research results have recently been published in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces