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Smart Contact Lens Sensor Integrated with AI to Monitor Physiological Signals in Deployed Extreme Operational Stress Environments


OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Trusted AI and Autonomy; Space Technology OBJECTIVE: The objective of this topic is to design contact lenses integrated with sensitive sensors to monitor physiological parameters as an innovative tool for the detection of stress biosignatures in body fluids in extreme operational environments (e.g., the arctic [i.e., extreme cold temperatures], heat, exposure to unknown contaminants, directed energy radiation, etc.). DESCRIPTION: In recent years, contact lenses as flexible and wearable sensing devices have shown significant progress in identifying potential biomarkers related to human disease. However, there exists a giant leap in creating these contact lenses with sensor chips integrated with unique functionalities to accomplish non-invasive detection of physiological biosignatures. Recent technological advances in material science, microelectronics, artificial intelligence, and digital engineering have enabled contact lenses as promising sensing devices for non-invasive monitoring systems of human performance in stressful operational environments. Despite significant efforts, the use of smart contact lenses remains limited because of their mechanical biocompatibility, detection sensitivity, and challenging integration process. Many characteristics are required for the successful development of smart contact lenses. First, they must maintain a high degree of transparency within the visual field, including the electronic materials for the embedded sensors and circuitry. Second, smart lenses must be comfortable to wear daily without interrupting the wearer’s routine mission in stressful environments. This generates several challenges relating to substrate mechanical stiffness, biocompatibility, lens shape, and surface irregularities that, if not controlled, could lead to eye inflammation and irritation. This challenge requires a multidisciplinary approach that leverage many technologies including biomaterials, microfluidics, biosensor circuits, energy supply, data transmission, and display. All these electronic components must be sandwiched within the lens substrate to prevent harming the eye surface, but it also obstructs direct contact with the tear fluid. A potential solution in this case is to use microfluidic channels for tear sampling and transport. Similarly, it is necessary to use flexible and biologically stable electrode materials to display relevant information on smart lenses with wireless communication capabilities and stable power supply. The proposed topic on wearable contact lenses integrated with biosensors can provide real-time noninvasive monitoring of physiological parameters and increase combat effectiveness in Airmen without interrupting or limiting the wearer’s motions. The biosensor components as well as the contact lens should be made of a transparent, opaque, flexible, and biocompatible material to be placed around the healthy pupil without obstructing the field of vision. The proposed contact lens designs must overcome the limitations of current contact lens sensors by continuously monitoring multiple analytes, such as the stress biosignatures cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), without obstructing the user’s field of vision. PHASE I: A transparent sensor platform will be designed and fabricated to detect a panel of biomarkers (e.g., oxygen, glucose, cortisol, lactate, urea, etc.). Sensor components and their connections must be protected from mechanical deformations due to the soft and stretchable nature of the contact lens. The success for the first phase of this project would be to provide a proof-of-concept for the proposed prototype, demonstrating its multi-functional sensing ability with wireless and battery-free operation. The key deliverables are proof of concept data, specific detection of stress biosignatures, and an initial proof of concept prototype. The final report consisting of a detailed description is required to determine if the result of Phase I feasibility technology is currently at an acceptable stage. PHASE II: The work completed in Phase II should demonstrate the successful operation of a contact lens prototype with integrated sensor components wireless communication capabilities. The biocompatibility data should be conducted using in vitro or in vivo models to demonstrate the safety of the contact lens without producing toxicity. The smart lens must be comfortable to wear on daily basis without interrupting the routine mission. The contact lens substrate, mechanical stiffness, lens shape, and surface irregularities should be considered very carefully to not produce any inflammation or irritation to the human eye. The deliverable is the functional smart contact lens sensor with a wireless communication capability to transmit information collected from contact lenses to a receiver for analysis. PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Phase III should demonstrate dual use primarily for military applications in the field. A wearable contact lens integrated with biosensors must provide real-time noninvasive monitoring of physiological parameters (e.g., cortisol, DHEA, oxygen, glucose, lactate, etc.) and increase combat effectiveness in Airmen without interrupting or limiting the wearer’s motions or obstructing their vision. The second application is for commercialization to use to detect key biomarkers for diagnostic and clinical purposes. REFERENCES: 1. 1. S. Lee, I. Jo, S. Kang, B. Jang, J. Moon, J. B. Park, S. Lee, S. Rho, Y. Kim, B. H. Hong, ACS Nano 2017, 11, 5318.; 2. G. Z. Chen, I. S. Chan, L. K. Leung, D. C. Lam, Med. Eng. Phys 2014, 36, 1134.; 3. M. Falk, V. Andoralov, M. Silow, M. D. Toscano, S. Shleev, Anal. Chem. 2013, 85, 6342.; 4. C. Jordan, Building An Electrochemical Contact Lens Biosensor, 2016; 5. Olgun, C.-C. Chen, J. L. Volakis, IEEE Antennas Wirel. Propag. Lett. 2011, 10, 262.; 6. Banbury, Linda K. Stress Biomarkers in the Tear Film KEYWORDS: Contact lens; Stress biomarkers; Biosensors
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