Gizmos & Gadgets: New Optical Lens Has Zoom In Function

Engineers at the Jacobs School of Engineering in San Diego are perfecting a contact lens that can view images normally or magnify them by wearing modified 3D-television glasses. Last year the school conducted human clinical trials on a preliminary version of the lens. It plans a second clinical trial later in 2013.

The current lens made of polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) is one millimeter thick and contains a tightly fitted embedded ring of aluminum mirrors positioned around the centre of the lens. Look through the centre and images are normal. Put on the modified 3D glasses and your vision is magnified 2.8 times. That’s because the glasses feature liquid crystals which polarize the light (see image below) to hit the telescopic outer ring of the lens making what the wearer sees much larger.


Telescopic lens 1


The problem with PMMA as a lens material is its impermeability to gases which means the eye surface cannot breathe. So this current version of the lens can only be worn for short periods of time. The designers are looking at next generation materials that are permeable and therefore can be worn for longer periods. They are also looking at ways to sharpen the images seen by wearers improving the optical transparency of the materials. The images below give you a good idea of how the lens impacts normal vision when worn and what the viewer sees in “zoom in” mode when wearing the glasses.

Who is likely candidate to wear the lens? People suffering from eye conditions like macular degeneration, a growing problem with our aging population.


Telescopic lens 2



Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...