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Night Vision Contact Lens

Funder: UK Research and InnovationProject code: 2106613
Funded under: EPSRC

Night Vision Contact Lens

Description

Sight is arguably one of humankind's most important senses. The eye is an incredible organ with excellent performance in good lighting conditions but it is a delicate structure. Providing protection for the eye is very important in many workplaces. In some environments this includes protection from projectile particles or other sources of damage such as laser irradiation. Of great additional benefit would be technologies to boost the eye's performance in low-lighting conditions. This inter-disciplinary project seeks to develop contact-lens based technologies for eye protection and increased low-light vision. A lens structure that will effectively manage IR radiation will be developed. The material has to be transparent at optical wavelengths, i.e. minimal dispersion, then show strong dispersion over IR wavelengths (over their broad band width; 700nm to 1 mm). Work will use computational modelling to identify key wavelengths, and define metamaterial structures to give the required response. Programmed self-assembly using biomolecules (DNA & polypeptides) is proposed to deliver high quality structures over the large scales needed. -- The production of a material with the properties mentioned above poses the greatest challenge. An artificial optical media displaying properties similarly to negative-index metamaterials such as a split-ring resonators (SRRs) poses the immediate problem of the metamaterial requiring to be constructed on a scale smaller than that of the subject wavelength. Typical current SRRs capable of manipulating electromagnetic waves with typical wavelengths from 300 MHz - 300 GHz can be manufactured using standard industrial techniques with relative ease. However, an optical metamaterial active in the infrared spectrum with a typical wavelength orders of magnitude smaller than typical SRRs is confined by its method of manufacture. Typical SRRs constructed from copper split ring formations on glass fibre circuit board are unreceptive to terahertz frequencies due to the scale of the SRR matrices. This project aims to achieve a method of manufacturing optical negative index metamaterial nanostructures using self-assembling biomolecules (DNA & polypeptides). DNA origami is a term coined by Dr. Nadrian Seeman and refers to a process of repurposing DNA as a nanoscale building material in a more literal sense than genetic instructions translating to biological macromolecules. Using DNA's natural strict base pairing rules, synthetic segments of DNA can be folded into desired shapes or scaffolds allowing attachment of functional cargo elements at precise locations. The potential for DNA origami to bind specific elements at predefined locations make it a suitable potential metamaterial at a scale suitable for activity in the terahertz range. Additionally, DNA origami's ability to self-organise into preprogramed shapes and patterns could allow manufacture of an optical metamaterial on a scale sufficient to be used as an optical device for imaging or contact-lens based applications.

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