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THE BIONIC CONTACT LENS

Authors
Siddhartha Gurung (siddhartha19888@yahoo.co.in)
Aniket Kumar (nonhik@yahoo.com)

Abstract: promises many things, most notably this could well be the
beginning of the Computer Human Interface of the future.
People don't think twice about wearing a
Bluetooth headset to have conversations on their cell I. Introduction:
phones. Well, one day it might not be unusual to wear a It is not often in this era of rampant technological
contact lens that projects the phone's display directly onto innovation that a fundamentally new concept surfaces.
the eye. Researchers at the University of Washington have
The Bionic Contact lens is a product of it.
taken an important first step toward building contact
A. What is Bionics?
lenses that could do just that. By incorporating metal
The field of bionics concerns the systematic
circuitry and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) into a polymer-
based lens, they have created a functional circuit that is technical implementation of solutions nature has found
safe to the eyes. for particular problems. Today, there are many new,
fascinating approaches for developing bionic
According to researchers the ultimate goals were
innovations due to recent dynamic advances in
to see if it would be possible to build a display that could
biological research and technology – especially at the
superimpose images onto a person's field of view, while
molecular level. While biotechnology addresses the
still allowing her to see the real world. Also they wanted to
scientific-technical realm lying between biology and
make a lot of functional devices that are really tiny, and
which can be incorporated into a contact lens to do a lot chemistry, bionics closes the gaps separating the fields
more than just improve vision. Ideally, installing or of biology, physics and engineering. Bionics pursues an
removing the bionic lens would be as easy as popping a interdisciplinary approach to solving application
contact lens in or out, and once installed the wearer would oriented problems. The results of bionic research and
barely know the gadget was there. The researchers placed development are, however, never reducible to a one to
the lens in a rabbit's eye for 20 minutes and found no
one copy of the models in nature which provided the
adverse effects. However, they did not turn on the
original inspiration.
electronics while the lens was in the rabbit's eye. Future
versions, the scientists believe, could serve as a flexible
B. Technology of the Contact Lenses
plastic platform for applications such as surfing the
Internet on a virtual screen, immersing gamers in virtual
worlds and monitoring patient’s medical conditions. A Bionic contact lens is simply a polymer-
based lens incorporated with a metal circuitry and light-
The most pressing problem was how to attach the emitting diodes (LEDs). It is having the capability to
electronic components—each thinner than a human hair
connect to a wireless device and provide a visual image
—to the delicate polymer of a contact lens. Bionic contact
of the data that would normal display on the device into
lenses are in the trial stages because there are many health
ones field of vision. Ultra thin antennas, a few
and technical issues that still need to be fixed. Though in
nanometers thick, are used to send information
its infancy, the combination of a wearable contact lens
with embedded optoelectronic and electronic devices wirelessly to devices.
did not turn on the electronics while the lens was in the
rabbit's eye. As they thought they have to be careful
about what happens to the eye when it turns on. It is a
functioning circuit. It could generate some heat.
Researchers need to take all the possible precautions to
make sure this is safe.

II. Hurdles
(a) First challenge was designing the surface of the
lens so the electronics didn't block regular vision.
(b) The more pressing problem was how to attach the
electronic components—each thinner than a human
hair—to the delicate polymer of a contact lens.
(c) Building the lenses was a challenge because
materials that are safe for use in the body, such as
the flexible organic materials used in contact

C. How to build a Bionic contact lens? lenses, are delicate.

The bionic lens is made from a polyethylene- (d) Display circuitry couldn't be made small and light

tetraphthalate substrate-which is a kind of plastic used enough to be placed on a contact lens without a

in beverage bottles. It is covered with metal wires for noticeable increase in the lens's weight.

connecting the LEDs. In addition to wires, the (e) Micro fabrication Technique:
researchers used chemicals to carve out circular Direct placement would probably damage the lens
indentations in which the LEDs would be placed. and be too time consuming. So researchers built a
The biggest challenge in building working separate, nano-size metal component and mixed them
electronics and opto-electronics into plastic is that these together so that they appeared like a fine powder. This
devices must be made with high heat that would melt powder was then placed in a vial of fluid and poured
the plastic. To get around this problem, researchers over a pitted lens surface. Each pit corresponded to a
fabricated LEDs on a separate substrate, ensuring that particular component, so as the mixture washed over
the devices could easily be removed and transferred the lens, the components found their positions.
onto the plastic lens. They coated the fully assembled A molecular adhesive force known as capillary
electronic lenses with polymethyl methacrylate action—the same property that allows plants to "suck
(PMMA), a biocompatible material. In the final step, up" water—locked the pieces into place. The lenses
the researchers moulded the plastic into the shape of a were then put into the eyes of lab rabbits, which
lens. showed no signs of adverse effects after at least 20
D. Testing on a live eye minutes of wear.
The lenses have been tested on rabbits, however
testing on humans has not yet been approved. The
researchers placed the lens in a rabbit's eye for 20
minutes and found no adverse effects. However, they
hopefully manipulating the image and changing its
perceived location in such a way that the viewer would
have the feeling of seeing an in-focus picture suspended
in midair. But he agreed that the challenge will be a
complicated one.
(h) How to give power supply:
If size isn’t necessarily a limitation, adequate
power could be. Hence researchers are working on the
issue of how to run displays or biosensors without the
need for awkward batteries. So far, the prototype’s lens-
mounted antenna has shown promise in collecting radio

(f) Another big obstacle was resolving the frequency waves and turning them into useful energy.

fundamental incompatibility between the


fabrication process for microchips and light- III. Proposed Work by Elliot Whaley
emitting diodes and the types of polymers used for His proposal involves the use of photoelectric cells
contact lenses. implanted in the contact lens developed at the
(g) Focusing on image quality: University of Washington, to take power from solar
Some scientists have been less gung ho. Daniel energy and an antenna to allow the contacts to function
Palanker, a retinal implant expert at Stanford anywhere.
University, questioned the ability of a display An important feature of these contact lenses is that
generated by the contact lens to produce a sharp image they are wireless and easy to use anytime, anywhere. It
on the retina of its wearer’s eye, noting that the normal does not need to be physically connected to anything to
focal distance for seeing objects clearly is about 25 work. In order to keep this device stand alone, it needs
centimeters in front of a person’s eye. But Glenn a way to power itself without an accessory that would
Chapman, a professor in the School of Engineering need to be carried around to charge it. Taking solar
Science at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British energy to power these lenses solves this problem. The
Columbia, said researchers could overcome that lenses would need to have photoelectric cells, which
obstacle by precisely adjusting the angle of incoming convert solar energy to electrical energy. Just one
light emitted by diodes on the contact lens. Assuming square meter of a solar panel has the ability to power a
the light beam is high-quality, correcting the beam's 100W light bulb. A solar panel will need to be scaled
incoming angle could make up for the cornea's lack of down to fit inside the contacts lenses with material that
focusing ability and instead allow the transparent is compatible with the eye.
crystalline lens behind the eye's iris to focus the image Some advantages of using solar energy are that
onto the wearer's retina. Of course, contact-wearing solar energy is free, needs no fuel and produces no
rabbits won't be able to tell researchers when they've hit waste or pollution. Some disadvantages are its high cost
upon the right angle to produce a crisp image, Chapman and a decrease in its performance at night. However, in
said, but an artificial eye overlaid with the lens could do cases in which solar energy is no longer available, the
the trick. Researchers are trying to pair micro lenses to contact lenses are capable of extracting minimal power
each pixel in a display created by the contact lens, from the antenna, which could compensate for no light.
The antenna does this by collecting radio frequency But these applications are years away.
waves and turning them into useful energy. The
drawback of this method is that the user might be in a V. Acknowledgment
place with no frequencies to pick up, like the Amazon. We want to thanks Prof. Babak Parviz, professor
So a system that would combine the methods of solar of electrical engineering at the University of
energy and the antenna could potentially be powered at Washington and his team for doing the research on the
all times. Bionic Contact lens. The whole research really inspired
With the proper research and development us to make a paper on this future concept.
team this proposal can be done and will help advance
the device already in progress at University of VI. References
Washington. [1] www.google.com.
[2] Alexi Mostrous, “And next the contact lens that lets
IV. Future Applications email really get in your face,” Times Online, 2008.
1) Soldiers could use the technology to see [3] www.technologyreview.com.
information about their environment, collected [4] www.wikipedia.com.
from sensors. [5] Science Daily (Jan 17, 2008).
2) People could use the electronic lens as a cell- [6] Elliot Whaley, “The Past, Present and Future of
phone display, to see who is calling and to watch Bionic Vision”, November 19, 2008.
videos
3) The bionic lens could prove a huge boon for
mobile-device manufacturers.
4) A biosensor-equipped lens could provide a
non-invasive way of that information and sending
it on to a database or serving as a relay station for
data or power from retinal implants designed to
correct vision problems.
5) The lens as a sensor that could monitor
chemical levels in the body and notify the user if
they indicate signs of disease.
6) Future applications might allow drivers and
pilots to see their direction and speed projected
across their view.
7) Wireless communication to and from the lens
will be possible.
8) Video-game companies could use the contact
lenses to completely immerse players in a virtual
world without restricting their range of motion.
9) Maybe the technique could even create sight
aids for visually impaired people.