Aug 18, 2023

Smart contact lenses powered by human tears could be here soon: reports

There’s a chance we could be closer to smart contact lenses powered by human tears than we’ve originally thought.Wikimedia Commons

Scientists in Singapore are striving to be years ahead of their time when it comes to how we see the world, media sources are reporting.

While huge tech companies such as Apple and Meta are neck-in-neck in the race to create ”smart” glasses, scientists in Singapore have found a way to develop a battery that could possibly break new ground on the road to smart contact lenses.

One challenge for scientists was the issue of safely powering these lenses. The answer lay in the form of a tear-fluid-charged, ultra-thin battery.

This would allow the lenses to transmit computer information or augmented reality displays directly into the wearer’s eyes.

And it would all be powered by tears, Yahoo and New Atlas reported.

In recent years, electronically augmented contact lenses were developed to monitor glaucoma, deliver eye medication or project augmented-reality imagery onto the vision of the wearer.

According to a Nanyang Technological University team led by Assoc. Prof. Lee Seok Woo, the way such devices are powered is far from ideal.

“The most common battery charging system for smart contact lenses requires metal electrodes in the lens, which are harmful if they are exposed to the naked human eye,” said Dr. Yun Jeonghun, co-author of a paper on the study. “Meanwhile, another mode of powering lenses, induction charging, requires a [metal] coil to be in the lens to transmit power, much like a wireless charging pad for a smartphone.”

As a result, scientists from NTU Singapore developed a flexible battery as thin as a human cornea – 0.5 mm thin – which stores electricity when it is immersed in saline solution.

When the flat, flexible battery is immersed in the basal tear fluid that coats our eyes, the enzyme then reacts with the sodium and chloride ions in the liquid, generating an electrical charge within the water in the battery – so the water serves as the “wire” or “circuitry” for electricity to be generated, reports say.

This breakthrough technology could day power smart contact lenses one day.

The battery is made from biocompatible materials that do not contain wires or toxic heavy metals, such as lithium-ion batteries or wireless charging stations. The battery has a glucose-based coating that reacts with the sodium and chloride ions in the saline solution surrounding it.

It could also be powered by human tears as they contain sodium and potassium ions.

In lab tests performed on a simulated human eye with a simulated tear solution, researchers found that the battery’s life would be extended an additional hour for every 12-hour wearing cycle it is used, sources have reported.

And while the user’s tear fluid could “help keep” the lenses running throughout the day, researchers recommend placing them in a saline solution overnight for at least eight hours so it would be fully charged in the morning, New Atlas reported.

Actual picture of these smart contact lenses can be seen via New Atlas and Yahoo.

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