Scientists at NTU Singapore have made a remarkable discovery in battery technology, paving the way for the development of smart contact lenses. The team, led by Associate Professor Lee Seok Woon, has created a flexible battery that is as thin as a human cornea. This revolutionary battery stores electricity when submerged in a saline solution, making it an ideal power source for smart contact lenses. The findings of this groundbreaking research have been published in the esteemed journal Nano Energy.
Smart contact lenses have the capability to display visible information directly on the corneas of the wearer. Currently, these lenses are primarily used to correct vision and monitor wearers’ health conditions, such as diabetes and glaucoma. The future of smart contact lenses holds even greater potential, with the possibility of recording and transmitting everything that the wearer sees and hears to cloud-based data storage systems. However, to achieve this vision, a safe and suitable power source must be developed.
Rechargeable batteries currently available rely on wires or induction coils that contain metal, making them unsuitable for use in the human eye. These batteries are uncomfortable and pose risks to the user. Additionally, traditional lithium-ion batteries and wireless charging systems contain toxic heavy metals, which are not ideal for use within the human body. Therefore, the challenge for scientists was to develop a battery that is biocompatible and wire-free.
The battery developed by NTU researchers tackles the limitations of existing batteries. It is composed of biocompatible materials and does not rely on wires or toxic heavy metals. Instead, it features a glucose-based coating that reacts with sodium and chloride ions in the surrounding saline solution. The water within the battery serves as the conduit for electricity, eliminating the need for wires or external circuitry.
In addition to the saline solution, the battery can also be powered by human tears. Tears contain sodium and potassium ions, albeit at a lower concentration than in the saline solution. In experiments with a simulated tear solution, the researchers demonstrated that the battery’s lifespan could be extended by an additional hour for every twelve-hour wearing cycle. Furthermore, the battery can be charged conventionally using an external power supply.
The development of this innovative and flexible battery opens up doors for the future of smart contact lenses. With a biocompatible power source that is wire-free and does not pose any risks to the wearer, smart contact lenses can evolve to their full potential. The ability to record and transmit the wearer’s experiences to cloud-based data storage systems could revolutionize fields such as healthcare, entertainment, and sports.
The breakthrough in battery technology achieved by NTU Singapore brings us one step closer to the realization of smart contact lenses. The thin, flexible, and biocompatible battery developed by the team paves the way for a future where contact lenses can do more than just correct vision. As we continue to push the boundaries of technology, the possibilities for smart contact lenses are endless, and their impact on various industries could be transformative. The implications of this research extend beyond contact lenses, serving as a testament to the remarkable advancements that can be made by challenging conventional boundaries in science and engineering.