August 29, 2023

Seeing The Future: Tear-Powered Smart Contact Lenses

Yes, you read that title clearly: Singaporean scientists at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have recently constructed smart contact lenses that have a tiny battery, which can be charged by human tears.

Contact lenses have been around for years, but recent technological advancements have had researchers coming up with a variety of new uses, such as telescopic vision, monitoring the wearer’s glucose levels, and now smart contacts that could potentially connect to mobile devices and display information.

While the major concern was how to power the devices, then came an eye-opening response.

Professor Lee Seok Woo of NTU’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, and the head of the project, released a statement last Thursday, 24 August, explaining: “This research began with a simple question: ‘Could contact lens batteries be recharged with our tears?’”

Woo’s team came up with a battery measuring 0.5 millimetres-long – which is no thicker than a regular human cornea – and coated with a glucose oxidase enzyme, which reacts with human tears’ sodium and chloride ions. When both are covered in water, the circuit is complete and electricity is generated.

“There were similar examples for self-charging batteries, such as those for wearable technology that are powered by human perspiration … both [glucose and water] are safe to humans and would be less harmful to the environment when disposed of, compared to conventional batteries,” Woo elaborated.

The possibilities for how the technology can be utilised have eager eyes on it as future work will enhance charge capacity and applications.

Weep for joy and watch this space for new developments!

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