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Surprising Science

How To (Literally) Have Dollar Signs In Your Eyes

Forget about those coated costume contact lenses: Scientists in Belgium have created a lens with a curved, flexible LCD display.

What’s the Latest Development?

Researchers at the Centre of Microsystems Technology, a joint venture between the Belgian nanotechnology company imec and Ghent University, have developed an LCD display that is flexible enough to be embedded into a contact lens. Making a very small spherical display was a challenge, as main researcher Jelle De Smet describes: “[W]e had to use very thin polymer films, [so] their influence on the smoothness of the display had to be studied in detail.”The first prototype, revealed Wednesday, contained a dollar sign.

What’s the Big Idea?

LED displays have been put into contact lenses in recent years, but their coverage is limited to a few pixels. LCD displays use the entire lens surface, allowing for a wider range in the number and size of pixels. Right now the lenses can only display simple patterns which are not visible to the wearer, and much additional development and testing is needed before they can become available for commercial use. However, in the future researchers believe fully autonomous electronic versions of these lenses can be used in many different medical and cosmetic applications, from sun blockers to iris color-changers. They may even be able to display augmented-reality images. Take that, Google Glass.

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