Inside Extreme Scale Tech|Monday, September 22, 2014
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LCD Contacts Put Dollar Signs in UGent’s Eyes 

Ever wish you could change your eye color on demand? Researchers at the Centre of Microsystems Technology (CMST), IMEC’s associated lab at Ghent University in Belgium, have unveiled a working prototype of a curved LCD display thin enough to embed within a contact lens. This breakthrough could pave the way for augmented reality contact lenses, featuring heads-up displays, built-in sunglasses and iris-color changes in the blink of an eye.

Until now, the stumbling block to integrating electronic displays into contacts has been the spherical curve of the lens. “Normally, flexible displays using liquid crystal cells are not designed to be formed into a new shape, especially not a spherical one,” explains researcher Jelle De Smet from IMEC’s lab at Ghent University. “Thus, the main challenge was to create a very thin, spherically curved substrate with active layers that could withstand the extreme molding processes. Moreover, since we had to use very thin polymer films, their influence on the smoothness of the display had to be studied in detail. By using new kinds of conductive polymers and integrating them into a smooth spherical cell, we were able to fabricate a new LCD-based contact lens display.”

While there has been research into integrating LEDs into contact lenses, researchers and Ghent and IMEC believe their breakthrough shows more promise because LCDs can be integrated into the entire display surface, whereas LED displays of this type are limited to only a few pixels. They hope the technology will prove valuable both to the medical and cosmetic fields, offering sun protection to maintain eye health while being able to enhance the user’s natural eye color.

Currently, though, the display is limited in its capabilities. The dollar sign pattern demonstrated on the current prototype looks more like the display on a graphing calculator than the images advertised on Apple’s Retina Display (which, ironically, has nothing to do with contact lens displays).

However, their ambition extends far beyond this first prototype. “Now that we have established the basic technology,” says Professor Herbert De Smet, supervisor at CMST, “we can start working towards real applications, possibly available in only a few years time.”

But with a breakthrough like this, it looks as though Ghent University researchers may be the ones with dollar signs in their eyes.

Full story at Txchnologist

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