LCD contact lens superimposes images on to normal view

A spherical curved LCD display, which can be embedded in contact lenses, has been developed at Ghent University. The development, from imec's laboratory The Centre of Microsystems Technology (CMST), could usher in a new generation of augmented reality systems and head-up displays as well as impacting medical and cosmetic markets.

The lens can currently only manage rudimentary patterns but researchers claim it is the first step toward fully pixelated contact lens displays.

InAVate reported on a similar, LED based system in November 2011, in development at Finland’s Aalto University and the University of Washington. However, CMST researchers, say these displays are limited to a few small pixels. In contrast the LCD-based technology permits the use of the entire display surface.

The solution could be used to control the light transmission toward the retina in case of a damaged iris. Future applications could superimpose images onto a user’s normal view although researchers warn of barriers that must be overcome before a display of this kind could hit the consumer market.

Jelle De Smet, the main researcher on the project, said: "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."