Finally, Transition Lens Glasses That Aren't Painfully Uncool

By Sarah Zhang on at

Blessed are those with perfect vision, but the rest of us poor, nearly blind souls know the torture that is looking for sunglasses when we already have to wear glasses. The options are Fitovers that jut out like VR goggles or flimsy clip-ons or prescription sunglasses (£££) or god forbid transition lens. (Please don't get me started on contacts.) But what if transition lens didn't look totally silly? It's possible! Thanks to chemistry.

The problem with transition lens you could say is that they work almost too well. Their tint changes automatically, so you end up with that icky translucent brown indoors and zero tinting outdoors if you're also wearing a hat. Automatic transitioning is obviously flawed, so let's give it up entirely. Let's give the wearers control of how lens change colour.

A recent study in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces describes the lens whose colours can be controlled with a push of a button. The chemists added electrochromic polymers (ECPs) to the lens, which are essentially polymers that change colour with a small change in voltage. ECPs are already used in glass for windows and devices that change colour. They can also be combined to create almost any colour you desire.

The chemists in this study ended up creating four different shades that corresponded with ones in commercial sunglasses. (Past experiments with ECPs and lens have yielded only blue shades, which might not be everyone's cup of tea.) The lens also transitioned completely from clear to colour quickly, in just a few seconds.

There are still other challenges, like how to change the voltage without a bulky device. But we wearers of glasses are slowly marching out of realms of ridiculousness. [ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces]

Image credit: Osterholm et al