Smart contact lenses are a very relevant but also very challenging application of advanced microsystem technology. The possible applications are very broad, ranging from the sensing of bodily parameters over dynamic vision corrections to augmented reality applications. Furthermore, the dimensional constraints, bio-compatibility, form factor and flexibility requirements, power budget considerations and optical specifications make this a very multidisciplinary research topic. At imec, research on smart contact lenses is already being conducted by the CMST group, who has built up international recognition on several fronts, including the realization and thermoforming of state of the art stretchable electronic circuits and thin electro-optic components, biocompatible packaging, etc. One of the most challenging research topics concerns the wireless powering of the smart contact lens. In the proposed PhD research topic, the possibility of integrating a high performance thin-film photovoltaic cell into a smart contact lens will be studied. The thin film photovoltaic group at imec is conducting world-leading research on module technology with the ultimate goal of low cost, large area production of the next generation of solar energy. The proposed project is using this technology by applying the same processes in a miniaturized device. The interconnection techniques that form a module from small subcells offer a high versatility concerning electrical design and form factor. Following the restrictions of the final application, crescent or ring shaped devices can be designed that deliver the requested electrical power output.
On the integration part, the research will deal with aspects of solar cell integration on a polymer carrier that is subsequently embedded in contact lens material, the reliability after molding and repeated flexing, transparent barrier layers to protect the solar cell from the tear fluid and prevent leakage of hazardous substances towards the eye, etc. The results of this work are going to be used by the CMST group to combine them with the other functional parts to an autonomously operating smart contact lens.
Supervisor: Herbert De Smet
Daily advisor: Robert Gehlhaar
When you apply for this PhD project, mention the following reference code in the imec application form: SE 1704-05.