Of all the powers Superman boasts, the two most appealing to many of us are
the power of flight and X-ray vision. While the power of flight is not likely
to happen without an airplane, the superhuman vision may be just around the
Engineers from the University of Washington (UW) used advanced manufacturing
techniques to combine a flexible and safe contact lens suitable to be worn on
the eye like any other contact lens with imprinted electronic circuits and
According to Babak Parviz, associate professor of electrical engineering at
UW, “Looking through a completed lens, you would see what the display is
generating superimposed on the world outside. This is a very small step toward
that goal, but I think it's extremely promising.”
The uses for such wearable
contact lens displays are many from simple heads up displays while driving
in your car or piloting a plane to complex systems for soldiers making the
world through a soldiers eyes more like the view from a current video game.
A prototype lens was constructed that contains an electronic circuit as well
as red LED lights for a display. The catch with the prototype is that the LEDs
don’t light up. The researchers put the contact lens into the eyes of rabbits
in animal testing for periods of up to 20 minutes without any side effects for
The researchers plan to eventually power the lenses using a combination of
radio frequency power and solar cells placed on the lens according to Parviz.
The large portion of the eye outside the transparent portion of the eye could
be used to place the required electronics.
The prototype lens was constructed using circuits built from layers of metal only
a few nanometers thick and about one thousandth the width of a human hair. A
powder of electrical components was then sprinkled onto a flexible plastic
sheet and capillary forces combined with the design of the electrical
components in the powder being built to only connect one way constructs the
components via self-assembly.