Nanoelectronic hub imec, Ghent University, and contact lens manufacturer SEED Co. have developed a contact lens with an integrated LED light as part of a novel wearable device.
The device also includes an ultrathin silicon microchip, a radio frequency antenna for wireless energy transfer, and stretchable thin-film interconnections. Different from the traditional contact lens-type wearable devices made of non-water-containing material, this novel device is made of hydrogel-based material.
This demonstration of autonomous electronics in hydrogel-based soft lenses opens the door to unique applications such as lenses with sensors and/or drug-delivery systems for the treatment of different eye disorders at the congenital, post-surgery, or trauma level. The main advantages of such devices are their low invasiveness level and continuous monitoring in an almost imperceptible manner.
With electronic systems getting ever smaller and with the possibility of having on-lens electrical power, it becomes feasible to integrate a variety of transducers, making it interesting for diagnosing and treating ocular diseases. The challenge is to integrate a complete autonomous system and make it as flexible as a soft lens, without compromising its oxygen-permeable nature or electronics.
Flexible and stretchable electronics hold a lot of promise for medical applications,” said Andrés Vásquez Quintero, imec researcher and professor at Ghent. “They can be integrated in intelligent clothing, and even — when combined with highly miniaturized electronics — in smaller devices such as contact lenses. Major challenges have to be overcome to make a truly autonomous smart lens that is comfortable to wear and stable for a few days or even weeks. The integration of a LED light in a semi-passive RF wireless platform is the first important step toward a device that will change the life of many.”