Published in Research

Scientists design AR system for 3D-printed smart contact lens

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2 min read

New research published in Advanced Science features a new core technology for smart contact lenses that uses 3D printing to incorporate an augmented reality (AR)-based navigation system.

Tell me about these lenses.

Researchers focused on developing lenses that incorporate AR via low-power electrochromic (EC) screens and enable pre-printed elements to be displayed through a simple, cost-effective micro-printing strategy.

What was the “secret sauce” in this study?

Researchers used a chemical compound called Prussian blue (PB) ink—which is metal-organic coordinated and contains distinctive EC patterns that can rapidly transition between colors and provide sharp contrast—for the lens material via meniscus.

Define meniscus here.

Meniscus refers to the formation of a curved surface on the outer wall of the lens material without water droplets bursting as a result of capillary action, when water droplets are gently pressed or pulled with a specific pressure.

Tell me more.

Prussian Blue ink was applied to the AR display and printed as micro-patterns of ink as small as 7.2 micrometers using a 3D printer that crystallized the PB—through the meniscus—on a non-flat (curved) surface.

How about the navigation feature?

Researchers created a PB-based, EC display integrated into the smart contact lens that provides real-time directions to a contact lens wearer via GPS coordinates. This method for PB micro-patterns could also be used in other functional devices (including advanced EC displays).

When might this be commercially available?

While the researchers noted promise for this AR technology, there are no immediate plans to commercialize it—the navigation system has yet to be tested on a living human’s eye.