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“Smart” contact lens detects diseases

Hydrogel-based "smart" contact lens

Imec, a Leuven-based research hub in nanoelectronics and digital technologies, the Ghent University (UGent) and Japanese contact lens manufacturer SEED Co., Ltd announced the development of a contact lens with an integrated LED light, including an ultra-thin silicon microchip, radio‐frequency (RF) antenna for wireless energy transfer and stretchable thin‐film interconnections. The spherical‐shaped electronics were made by imec/CMST (an imec research group at Ghent University). SEED was responsible for the seamless integration of the electronics into the hydrogel-based soft lens.

The smart lens, for the time being only a prototype, contains a mini electronic system, with a sensor and an antenna, allowing it to communicate and also receive energy. The contact lens is made of flexible polyurethane and is pliable.

Different from the traditional contact lens-type wearable devices made of non-water-containing material, this 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.

“Flexible and stretchable electronics hold a lot of promise for medical applications,” explains Andrés Vásquez Quintero, imec researcher and professor at UGent. “They can be integrated in intelligent clothing, and even – when combined with highly miniaturised electronics – in smaller devices such as contact lenses. Major challenges have to be overcome to make a truly autonomous smart lens which is comfortable to wear and stable for a few days or even weeks,” says professor Quintero.

Arthur Rubinstein
The Brussels Times