Imec and UGent unveil breakthrough in augmented reality contact lens - Curved LCD display holds widespread potential for medical and cosmetic applications
Leuven and Ghent (Belgium) – December 5, 2012 -- The Centre of Microsystems Technology (CMST), imec’s associated laboratory at Ghent University (Belgium), announced today it has developed an innovative spherical curved LCD display, which can be embedded in contact lenses. The first step toward fully pixelated contact lens displays, this achievement has potential wide-spread applications in medical and cosmetic domains.
Unlike LED-based contact lens displays, which are limited to a few small pixels, imec’s innovative LCD-based technology permits the use of the entire display surface. By adapting the patterning process of the conductive layer, this technology enables applications with a broad range of pixel number and sizes, such as a one pixel, fully covered contact lens acting as adaptable sunglasses, or a highly pixelated contact lens display.
The first prototype presented today contains a patterned dollar sign, depicting the many cartoons that feature people or figures with dollars in their eyes. It can only display rudimentary patterns, similar to an electronic pocket calculator. In the future, the researchers envision fully autonomous electronic contact lenses embedded with this display. These next-generation solutions could be used for medical purposes, for example to control the light transmission toward the retina in case of a damaged iris, or for cosmetic purposes such as an iris with a tunable color. In the future, the display could also function as a head-up display, superimposing an image onto the user’s normal view. However, there are still hurdles to overcome for broader consumer and civilian implementation.
“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,” said Jelle De Smet, the main researcher on the project. “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.”
Prof. Herbert De Smet, who is supervising CMST’s display group further comments: “Now that we have established the basic technology, we can start working towards real applications, possibly available in only a few years time.
A movie of the working prototype can be found on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-btRUzoKYEA
Further information on CMST can be found at http://www.cmst.be
Imec performs world-leading research in nanoelectronics. Imec leverages its scientific knowledge with the innovative power of its global partnerships in ICT, healthcare and energy. Imec delivers industry-relevant technology solutions. In a unique high-tech environment, its international top talent is committed to providing the building blocks for a better life in a sustainable society. Imec is headquartered in Leuven, Belgium, and has offices in Belgium, the Netherlands, Taiwan, US, China, India and Japan. Its staff of close to 2,000 people includes more than 600 industrial residents and guest researchers. In 2011, imec's revenue (P&L) was about 300 million euro. Further information on imec can be found at www.imec.be.
Imec is a registered trademark for the activities of IMEC International (a legal entity set up under Belgian law as a "stichting van openbaar nut”), imec Belgium (IMEC vzw supported by the Flemish Government), imec the Netherlands (Stichting IMEC Nederland, part of Holst Centre which is supported by the Dutch Government), imec Taiwan (IMEC Taiwan Co.) and imec China (IMEC Microelectronics (Shangai) Co. Ltd.) and imec India (Imec India Private Limited).
Ghent University, abbreviated to UGent, is one of the major universities in the Dutch-speaking region of Europe. It distinguishes itself as a socially committed and pluralistic university in a broad international perspective. Over 130 faculty departments, spread over 11 faculties, offer high-quality courses in every one of their scientific disciplines. With a view to cooperation in research and community service, numerous research groups, centres and institutes have been founded over the years. Ghent University yearly attracts over 30,000 students, with a foreign student population of over 2,200 EU and non-EU citizens.
Imec : Hanne Degans, External Communications Officer, T: +32 16 28 17 69, Mobile: +32 486 065 175, Hanne.Degans@imec.be
CMST: Jelle De Smet, Centre for Microsystems Technology, T: +32 9 264 53 55, Jelle.DeSmet@elis.UGent.be