These new lenses can change from glasses to sunglasses in seconds

Transitional lenses were hailed as a breakthrough for glasses wearers when they first hit the market: you don’t need separate sunglasses or those weird, ‘80s-Dad clip-on shades anymore! Except they don’t always work as well as promised: enter a dark room when it’s bright outside and you’ll be spending a few minutes stumbling around, unable to see. Conversely, they don’t block out the harshest light, such as bright sun on slow. And you can’t use them when you’re driving or even when you’re wearing a hat with a brim.

A group of scientists from Georgia Institute of Technology wants to make transitional glasses that are much more effective. So they’ve designed a new type of lens that can go from dark to clear in seconds and which are controlled by a small electrical charge, so wearers can switch between shaded and clear whenever they want. The lenses don’t have to change all the way to black, either: they can be adjusted so they look as good as non-prescription sunnies.

The research team, led by Anna Österholm, specifically wanted to design something that would help pilots and security guards, but say that their manufacturing methods should be easy to scale up so the lenses could be made for consumer market. They’re still at prototype stage at the moment, but fingers crossed we’ll see them in Specsavers (etc.) before long.

Image credit: American Chemical Society.

Diane Shipley