3D Printed Contact Lens Material Reveals Future Of Sight

My following article below was originally published by SERIOUS WONDER:

3D printed sight

What will the future of sight look like? Obviously that’s a strange question, given that our current perceptions of sight are severely confined due to our biological limitations. But try thinking out of the box: will we perceive colors that we currently cannot fathom, similar to the mantis shrimp, or will we see x-rays as pleaded by Battlestar Galactica‘s John Cavil?

All of that sounds amazing, but for one research team at Princeton University, the future of sight involves tiny LEDs!

“We 3D printed quantum dot-based light-emitting diodes (QD-LEDs) that exhibit pure and tunable color emission properties. By further incorporating the 3D scanning of surface topologies, we demonstrate the ability to conformally print devices onto curvilinear surfaces, such as contact lenses.” (“3D Printed Quantum Dot Light-Emitting Diodes,” Nano Letters)

3D printed sight 2

Led by Michael McAlpine, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, the Princeton-based research team wanted to figure out if they could use 3D printing as a possible means of engineering small sized electronics and attach them onto other materials. In this case, they used nanoparticles known as quantum dots as the “ink” and printed fully functional light-emitting diode (LED) semiconductors.

The trick was printing them on a curved material, such as a contact lens. It worked however, resulting in the development of lens which projected beams of colored light. Now for the lens to work, it requires an external power supply. Meaning the lens weren’t designed for actual use, but the team’s success certainly points to a whole new future of possibilities!

Professor McAlpine and his team’s research was published in Nano Letters, which can be read here.


The future of sight may not be here just yet, but if this current research tells us anything, it’s that the future is closer than we think. The ability to 3D print nanoparticles onto a contact lens is no small feat. Just imagine what other materials could be printed at such a small scale, on objects we’ve taken for granted today. Technological innovations beyond our wildest imaginations are upon us! So, again, I ask you: what will the future of sight look like?


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