Boffins smear circuitry onto contact lenses

'Eyeballing a computer' gets closer thanks to Anglo-Australian collaboration

University of South Australia associate professor Drew Evans has created proof-of-concept work that could in the future lead to computerised contact lenses.

The conducting polymer lens is an early step into what could lead to circuitry being etched into contact lenses.

The work is combination of the University's Future Industries Institute work into the PEDOT polymer and lenses developed by a UK contact lens firm understood to be Contamac.

"We have been researching in this area for the last decade in the military and automotive industries, but this is the first time we have been able to bring our polymer into contact lens technology," Evans told Vulture South.

"It is a milestone simply because the polymer is biocompatible, meaning the body finds it friendly.

"There have been companies over the last decade building circuitry into lenses but that is using materials like copper - you'd be taking a big risk to stick that in your eye."

The PEDOT polymer was first discovered in the late 1970s by three scientists who later won the Nobel Prize in 2000. Evans' work improves on the polymer improving its properties for use in wearable devices.

"No-one has been able to combine it with a contact lens, or even thought of it," Professor Evans says.

The concept was a left-of-field discovery born from a discussion with Contamac.

Professor Evans says the work is two years in the making but built on a decade's research. The details are published in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

The university's Institute is also responsible for the world’s first entirely plastic car mirrors and so-called smart windows that darken with the flick of a switch. It has also modified those polymers for military camouflage. ®

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