SBIR Phase I: Bio-based polymers for optical applications

Period of Performance: 01/01/2017 - 12/31/2017

$225K

Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Novol, Inc
510 Porpoise Bay Ter APT D
Sunnyvale, CA 94089
Firm POC, Principal Investigator

Abstract

The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project will be in the area of optical materials. Optical materials are widely used in applications such as eyeglasses, cameras, cell phones, fiber-optic cables etc. Novol aims to push the frontiers of innovation in optical material research by creating new polymers with a much better balance of optical properties relative to glass while being tough and lightweight. The goal is to provide significant improvement in vision quality for patients with ophthalmic disorders. Particular benefit could be seen in pediatric and hyperopic prescription markets where choices of lens materials are restricted due to greater demand on lens properties. Long term project goals will focus on making lower-cost and more efficient lens assemblies for imaging, diagnostics and surveillance applications. A parallel aim of the research is to reduce the environmental impact of existing optical polymers, which are often made from highly toxic materials. Commercial opportunity presented through this work will not only benefit the end users but also the lens manufacturers through its ability to utilize safe and bio-derived monomers like sugars for making a highly important category of materials in today?s markets. The technical objectives in this Phase I research project are to demonstrate optical and mechanical advantages of a new class of polymers made from sugars. Sugars have versatile properties arising from their complex structures, presence of heteroatoms and multiple functional groups. This research aims to bring together principles of organic, polymer and biological chemistry to create a new type of highly transparent, strong and refractive polymers useful in many optical applications, including lenses. Recent innovation in optical materials has focused largely on increasing a singular lens property, refractive index, mainly to afford thinner lenses for prescription eyewear applications. Technical objectives of this work go beyond the need to create just high index optical polymers and focus on making polymers that balance high refractive index with other critical properties of optical materials such as low dispersion of light and desirable mechanical strength. Lens materials with such well-balanced properties are currently unknown and if created, will provide unique advantages for many commercial applications of lenses such as prescription eyewear, sports accessories, camera assemblies and device screens. Another technical objective of this effort will focus on co-polymerization of sugar derivatives with known synthetic polymers to improve the properties and bio-based content of existing polymers.