Princeton Researchers Show Us How a Regular Contact Lens Can Project Beams of Light [ view all news ]
A Princeton research project may have had green and orange beams of light flowing out of regular contact lenses, but lead researcher Michael McAlpine reports that it is the ability to use 3-D printing to print electronics into complex shapes, like those of a light-emitting diode (LED), that was at the crux of the study, and not the creation of a new-fangled contact lens.
The researchers used quantum dots, or extraordinarily tiny crystals, as ink that enabled them to print LEDs directly on to a hard, plastic contact lens: the lenses were first scanned so that the printer could read their geometrical information, and the LEDs were then printed on them.
Yong Lin Kong, a participant in the research project, wrote about its findings in the journal Nano Letters, pointing out that printing electronics using different – and incompatible – materials was their greatest challenge: Indeed, the team had to create a new kind of 3-D printer, estimated to cost about USD 20,000.
3-D printers are able to print electronics in complex forms - though work slowly when compared to traditional printers used in manufacturing. Manufacturers now use 3-D printers to create complex molds or patterns and leave the mass printing of identical units to the faster printers without 3-D capability.
While the light-emitting lens are certainly not meant to be worn by patients, that 3-D printing technology can be used to print materials that are not compatible with each other into a complex, functional shape shows the power of this technology.