A polymer film coating with the ability to turn contact lenses into computer screens is set to transform the wearable visual aids into the next generation of consumer electronics.
Scientists from the University of South Australia's Future Industries Institute have successfully completed "proof of concept" research on a polymer film coating that conducts electricity on a contact lens, with the potential to build miniature electrical circuits that are safe to be worn by a person.
UniSA researcher from the FII, Associate Professor Drew Evans said the technology was a "game changer" and could provide one of the safest methods to bring people and their smart devices closer together.
Ref: Hydrophilic Organic Electrodes on Flexible Hydrogels. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces (23 December 2015) | DOI: 10.1021/acsami.5b10831
Prompted by the rapidly developing field of wearable electronics, research into biocompatible substrates and coatings is intensifying. Acrylate-based hydrogel polymers have gained widespread use as biocompatible articles in applications such as contact and intraocular lenses. Surface treatments and/or coatings present one strategy to further enhance the performance of these hydrogels or even realize novel functionality. In this study, the conductive polymer poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) (PEDOT) is deposited from the vapor phase onto hydrated hydrogel substrates and blended with biocompatibilizing coconstituents incorporating polyethylene glycol (PEG) and polydimethyl siloxane (PDMS) moieties. Plasma pretreatment of the dehydrated hydrogel substrate modifies its surface topography and chemical composition to facilitate the attachment of conductive PEDOT-based surface layers. Manipulating the vapor phase polymerization process and constituent composition, the PEDOT-based coating is engineered to be both hydrophilic (i.e. to promote biocompatibility) and highly conductive. The fabrication of this conductively coated hydrogel has implications for the future of wearable electronic devices.