Ghent University (Belgium) Centre of Microsystems Technology recently announced the development of a new spherical curved LCD the size of a contact lens. In fact the LCD was specifically developed to be worn on the eye. The developers stated that they can be worn like any other contact lens and should not obstruct the viewers field of vision.
Unlike LED lenses which can only support a limited number of pixels, the new LCD lenses can display a wide range of pixel sizes and numbers. The new technology also utilizes the entire surface of the lens which will enable their use for a wide range of medical and cosmetic purposes.
If one pixel is used, covering the entire lens, they could function as sunglasses. In contrast a display with many pixels would allow the wearer to change the color of their contacts at will. Images could be superimposed in the usual field of vision, allowing text messages or driving directions to be viewed as a heads-up display. It may be several years before the lenses are ready for such complicated applications. The prototype released today simply displayed a dollar sign.
Creating an LCD screen in the correct shape and size was quite a challenge for for the developers. Researcher Jelle De Smet explains:
“Normally, flexible displays using liquid crystal cells are not designed to be formed into a new shape, especially not a spherical one. Thus, the main challenge was to create a very thin, spherically curved substrate with active layers that could withstand the extreme molding processes. Moreover, since we had to use very thin polymer films, their influence on the smoothness of the display had to be studied in detail. By using new kinds of conductive polymers and integrating them into a smooth spherical cell, we were able to fabricate a new LCD-based contact lens display.”
Professor Herbert De Smet, supervisor of the display group, is confident that the lenses will be available to the public within the next few years.