The concept of a smart contact lens isn’t exactly new. However, many emerging smart lens technologies employ lenses that are both expensive and extremely brittle. They can impair the wearer’s vision or even cause injury, and measuring signals from these lenses often requires bulky equipment. Now, a newly developed smart lens could change all of that.
In a study published in Science Advances, a team of researchers from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) and Sungkyunkwan University detail their research on a lens capable of measuring and monitoring glucose levels in tears. Not only is it softer and more user-friendly than other smart contact lenses, it is also the first soft contact lens to use a display pixel for glucose monitoring.
The team of researchers incorporated three main components into a flexible, transparent nanostructure to create these smart, soft lenses: glucose sensors, wireless power transfer circuits, and display pixels.
The pixels access sensing data in real-time, eliminating the need for external equipment to measure the glucose. The glucose information is displayed through the LED pixel. When the system detects that glucose levels have crossed a certain threshold, the LED pixel in the lens shuts off, alerting the wearer to the concerning level.
So far, the researchers have tested their smart contact lens in a rabbit’s eye, and they say they were able to successfully monitor the animal’s glucose levels wirelessly. They hope the lens could eventually be used to monitor glucose in humans. This could be incredibly useful for people with diabetes, and it could also be used to screen for pre-diabetes, giving patients the upper hand in preventing diabetes and keeping track of their health.