Recent Advances in Smart Contact Lenses


Contact lenses are most commonly used to correct blurry vision, but sometimes people wear different colors for fun. And with Halloween right around the corner, people will soon be stocking up on red, black, or cat-eye contacts to look even spookier. Researchers are currently working hard to adapt these small hydrogels into smart devices to treat color blindness, for use in wearable virtual displays, and for drug delivery and noninvasive health monitoring. Below are some recent articles published in ACS journals that report information on powering smart contacts, as well as new ways to deliver drugs. Journalists can request free access to these articles by emailing

Power smart lenses
“Safe, durable and long-lasting self-powered smart contact lenses”
ACS Nano
September 7, 2022
Here, researchers have shown that the glucose in tears can power smart contact lenses. They sandwiched a microscopic glucose fuel cell between layers of flexible hydrogel. Combining the fuel cell with arrays of color-changing crystals has produced a prototype sensor that visibly distinguishes artificial tears simulating a diabetic condition from controls. However, the device still needs to be made even smaller before it can be used in glucose-sensing smart contact lenses, the researchers say.

“Flexible, semi-transparent silicon solar cells as a power source for smart contact lenses”
ACS Applied Electronic Materials
August 1, 2022
In this article, flexible and semi-transparent solar cells were designed to operate the microelectronic and optoelectronic elements of smart contact lenses. The researchers molded silicon-based photovoltaic arcs 15 µm thick, incorporating them into dome-shaped lenses. Based on indoor and outdoor light experiments, the researchers estimated that their 25 and 50 percent transparent solar cells could generate 49.3 and 26.6 J cm-2 per day, respectively, showing their potential to power smart contact lenses.

Medicine delivery
“Printable Metal-Polymer Conductors for Local Drug Delivery”
September 19, 2022
Medications, such as drops or ointments, that are administered topically can enter the body more easily with localized applications of electricity. As a step towards using this technique to treat eyes and skin, the researchers printed liquid metal circuitry on stretchable, bendable pieces of polydimethylsiloxane, simulating contact lenses and skin patches. In tests on animal models, electrical pulses were applied to the metal-polymer contact lens, which the researchers found enhanced the therapeutic effect of the eye drops.

“Microfluidic pressure-triggered contact lens for ocular drug delivery”
ACS Applied Polymer Materials
September 7, 2022
Most eye infections are treated with drops, but blinks and tears wash them away quickly. Thus, researchers have developed prototypes of smart contact lenses that can gradually deliver drugs directly to the eye. The lenses have arc-shaped microfluidic channels and a micropump that is activated by eyelid pressure. In blink simulations, the flexible, clear lenses released drug-like fluids in a controlled and sustained manner without the need for electronics.

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