Pieter De Backer created in his master thesis at Ghent University (UGent) a proof-of-concept prototype of a contact lens featuring an artificial iris that can dynamically open and close similarly as a real iris. His dissertation was nominated for the “Vlaamse Scriptieprijs”.
Nine concentric rings that can either block light or let light through are created on the contact lens. The technology is based on the Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) technology, which allows, on a pixel per pixel basis, in an LCD monitor to let light pass through or to block light. Letting each concentric ring one after the other inwards block light, emulates a closing iris. Vice versa, an opening iris is emulated by making each concentric ring one after the other outwards again transparent. This closing and opening process can be realized much faster than possible by a real iris. The below YouTube movie illustrates the operation of this contact lens featuring an artificial dynamic iris.
This proof-of-concept prototype requires further development, such that the contact lens can operate wirelessly. On one side, a light detector and the logic to accordingly control the concentric rings needs to be integrated on the contact lens. On the other side, the electronic circuitry integrated on the contact lens needs to be able to wirelessly retrieve energy in order to be able to function.
Other challenges exist besides these technological challenges in order to make the contact lens really wearable. The prototype was designed in such a way that the inner part of the contact lens could be removed in order to let air reach the cornea. Also the geometry of the contact lens needs to be improved in order to achieve a perfect fitting.