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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Fast-Tint Protective Eyewear

Military personnel need eye protection that can rapidly adapt to different light conditions. The Office of Naval Research’s TechSolutions department, led by Stephanie Everett, just delivered a prototype, which they call ‘Fast-Tint Protective Eyewear’ (FTPE).

Traditional transitional lenses, also called ‘photochromic lenses', have been around for decades. While useful under most circumstances, it can take up to two minutes for the lenses to completely darken or lighten. Military personnel often find this unacceptable, and resort to removing their glasses completely, leaving their eyes unprotected.

The new lenses contain liquid crystal solutions of customized dyes. Depending on whether an electric charge is applied, the lenses can change from clear to amber, blue, or dark grey. The change takes less than half a second, and can be triggered automatically or manually. Because the glasses are intended for battle conditions, the lenses also meet ballistic impact safety requirements.

So far, 30 pairs of the glasses have been delivered and are undergoing testing. Based on that evaluation, another 100 pairs are scheduled to go to Special Operations Command. TechSolutions expects to continue to make modifications based on users’ recommendations. No news yet about when these lenses will be available to the public.