EPGL Medical has created a micron-sized piezoelectric energy harvester that can fit within a contact lens and harvest energy from blinking and other eye movements, EPGL’s President and CEO Michael Hayes told Design News.
This microelectrical mechanical systems (MEMS)-based harvester will provide a consistent wireless, battery- or RF-free power for applications that can deliver medication or a wide range of information to wearers of the lens, he told us.
Technology-enhanced contact lenses are poised to be the platform of the future for digital-information delivery, and now a medical-device company called EPGL Medical has designed an energy harvester that generates energy from eye movements and blinks to power contact lenses to support next-generation digital and biomedical applications. (Source: iOptik)
“The mechanism is an array in the lens that generates the energy from the movement of the eyes,” Hayes said. This eliminates the need for an RF transmitter or some kind of battery to power the lenses for external applications that can deliver everything from stock quotes to blood-sugar levels to weather information to users as if on a screen, but instead, right in front of their eyes.
The harvester -- only a few microns thick so it can fit comfortably in the lens undetectable by the wearer -- also works around the clock, providing a perpetual source of energy, he said. “Your eyes are always moving -- even when you’re sleeping they’re moving."
While Google Glass provides people with high-tech glasses that can allow them to navigate the web and applications to view information in front of their eyes, next-generation contact lens technology will take this concept even a step further, Hayes explained. “The next generation of applications for wearable display is moving into contact lenses,” he said. “You want to check your blood sugar level, blink your eyes and boom, it’s in front of your eyes.”
Contacts lenses not only will be able to deliver information to wearers, they also could potentially deliver medications. In fact, David T. Markus, EPGL’s vice president and chief of bioMEMS development, invented the energy-harvesting device for one of EPGL’s own technologies -- a low-intensity pulse ultrasound for eye regeneration that can be delivered in a contact lens -- and realized it could have a much broader application as well.
The harvester is available now for commercial licensing and already has interested customers. Depending on how swiftly this technology is adopted, visual-information applications using the harvester could be as little as months away, Hayes told us. “It could take off tomorrow or it could take another few years,” he said.
That is a scary scenario, Chuck. I guess what I'm wondering is whether the small amounts of energy generated are sufficient for powering the tiny electronics that deliver the info. I'd bet that next-gen contact lens tech as described in the article probably don't need high levels of power and the article points out that the human eye is always moving, even in sleep--that's definitely true for, at least, REM sleep stages (aka dreaming).
Yes, Ann, it is nightmarish to think you might suddenly and inexplicably be looking at stock quotes in front of your eyeball while you're tooling down the road or watching a movie. But I also agree with you that the miniscule amount of energy involved probably would prevent most of those scenarios from ever happening. After all, how much energy can be available from an eyeblink?
I'd like to see this power electronics and actuators that allow a contact lens to be flexed like our own cornea to overcome the shortcomings of contact lenses and glasses to provide normal vision to the millions afflicted. Anyhow, Thanks very much for posting
The other thing about this technology that I have trouble wrapping my head around (as a contact lens user) is just exactly where all the information will appear, and how I can turn it off. Can you imagine some kind of malfunction and instead of your normal vision, you're looking at stock quotes or something?? It all feels very Matrix-like and a bit unsettling, but also exciting.
I know, this technology is sort of mind-blowing, Chuck, and unfortunately, Michael didn't want to go into detail about the actual design for proprietary reasons. Because of this, I'm not 100 percent exactly sure how it works, but what you're envisioning or some combination thereof is probably about right. I think it's quite incredible technology but I guess we will have to see it in practice, which I think is still in the works.
So...an eye blink applies a mechanical stress to the piezo element, which creates electrical current in response? I'm having trouble getting a handle on this. Does the blink stretch the piezo material? Does it bend the piezo? Is one side of the piezelectric element in tension while the other side is in compression, like the bending of a beam? The whole idea that electricity can be created by something as small as an eyeblink is mind boggling.
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