Light Therapy/Tunable Lenses: Optics and light solve biomedical problems in space - and on Earth

The National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) has awarded the makers two optics/photonics-based biomedical devices with grants.

In addition to hospital workers, international travelers, and others, "astronauts and ground crew are often required to perform mission-critical tasks at times that are at odds with their normal sleep/wake cycle," says Vanessa Burns, CEO of LumosTech, a Stanford University (CA)-based startup. The company's programmable light therapy mask emits pulses of light while the wearer sleeps, adjusting his/her sleep cycle and enabling such workers to be alert when needed.

Electrical connections to electrodes in a liquid crystal enable eyeglass lenses to be reprogrammed for different prescriptions in real time. (<em>Courtesy of eVision Optics</em>)
Electrical connections to electrodes in a liquid crystal enable eyeglass lenses to be reprogrammed for different prescriptions in real time. (Courtesy of eVision Optics)

Addressing the fact that most astronauts experience decreased visual acuity during spaceflight, eVision Optics (Sarasota, FL) is developing tunable eyeglasses. CTO Tony Van Heugten explains that "Liquid crystal lenses can be re-programmed electronically in real time to adapt to changing vision." Within the liquid crystal are two types of electrodes: concentric ring and "floating." When the electrical profile is applied to a specific region, the floating electrodes slide into place to fill the gaps between the concentric ones.

Funding is provided through the Space Medical and Related Technologies Commercialization Assistance Program (SMARTCAP).

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