Feeds

Boffins build telescopic contact lenses to battle blindness

But you'll still need to wear glasses

High performance access to file storage

An international research team has built a set of contact lenses designed to help those of us getting on a bit in years, which can magnify vision up to x2.8 and be worn all day.

As the body ages, the central part of the retina can decay, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in the increasingly elderly Western world. The contact lens developed by the team uses refracting mirrors to increase the magnification to the cornea, which when coupled with a set of LCD spectacles, can correct failing eyesight.

It has been possible to correct AMD for some time now, but doing so requires either heavy telescopic eyewear (or a handheld telescope) or the implantation of microscopic image intensifiers in the eye itself. Both solutions have disadvantages in comparison to the team's new scheme, Eric Tremblay of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), coauthor of a research paper describing the technique, told The Register.

"With a contact lens you don't have the practical disadvantages of telescopic eyewear or the medical invasiveness of implants," he explained. But taking the design to a practical level has taken a lot of research and some ultra-high precision engineering.

It has been possible to make a contact lens to perform a similar magnifying function to counter AMD, but the best designs are 4.4mm thick (making them very uncomfortable) and not gas-permeable. As any contact lens wearer will know, wearing impermeable lenses for any length of time is highly uncomfortable, and could cause further eye damage.

Prototype telescopic contact lens

Eye, Eye, mate

The new design cuts that thickness to a manageable 1.17mm, and the material can be made gas-permeable to allow longer periods of use without irritating the eye. At its core there's a clear 1mm-thick lens, but the outside of the 8mm-diameter eyewear gets greater magnification thanks to four waves of reflection from coated custom optics.

The team used a pair of Samsung 3D glasses with LCD lenses to block or allow light to enter the contact lens optics, allowing the user to focus on the desired target. It might be possible to dispense with the glasses and build filtering direct onto the lens, but that introduced a new set of engineering difficulties, Tremblay explained, and the Samsung technology is easily adaptable and in use today.

Prototype telescopic contact lens with glasses

Terminator eyes

"The biggest challenge was making the lens gas-permeable, since some of the materials we use aren't permeable and are relatively thick," he said. "One of the team in San Diego had a clever idea of building tiny air channels to bring oxygen underneath the lens. It seemed pretty harebrained but it worked really well."

At the moment each lens has to be hand-assembled using different parts, but further research by manufacturers is showing a lot of promise, Tremblay said. Telescopic lenses aren't going to be as cheap as regular contacts any time soon, he explained, but they may eventually provide a less bulky and less invasive solution to the AMD issue than the alternatives. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Fancy joining Reg hack on quid-a-day challenge?
Recruiting now for charity starvation diet
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Opportunity selfie: Martian winds have given the spunky ol' rover a spring cleaning
Power levels up 70 per cent as the rover keeps on truckin'
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.