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Sac State Professor Inventing New Lenses That Could Eliminate Bifocals

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Getting old is no fun, and having to wear glasses to read can sometimes be a hassle. Imagine eliminating the need for bifocals and trifocals.

A Sacramento State professor is inventing new lenses that could someday change the way you see.

Rochelle Bowman needs clear vision to do her job as a parking enforcement officer.

“You have to read the license plates, you have to read the VINs,” said Rochelle.

Rochelle’s been wearing her old-fashioned bifocals for the past decade.

“I’ve never had a problem. Cheap worked out for me,” said Rochelle.

Most of the time.

“Toyotas are horrendous for the way the light hits the VIN, the sun hits the VIN. Sometimes I actually have to do this to read it. I can’t read it,” said Rochelle.

Tom Yee doesn’t like wearing his bifocals so he goes through the tiring routine of switching from one pair of glasses to another, but that’s better than motion sickness.

“Whenever I’m walking, I look down, kind of vertigo, dizzy,” said Tom.

Inside Sequoia Hall at Sacramento State, physics professor Vassili Sergan, Ph.D., is working on technology that could change their lives and yours forever.

“It’s nice when you can do something no one did before you,” said Sergan.

Sergan is working on new lenses using liquid crystal displays that could replace those old bifocals and trifocals.

“When you actually move your eyes down, it will switch automatically,” said Sergan.

Sergan has created a machine to run tests that measure the angles of liquid crystals in lenses.

Prior to running tests like these on these machines, there have been weeks, if not months to find out if the lens will work. This device will give instant measurements to see if the performance matches the theory.

Tiny movements of your eyes or head could trigger electric signals to change the orientation of crystals in your glasses. That means you’d be able to read a book and watch TV without bi’s or tri’s.

“That would be freedom,” said Rochelle.

“It would make it a lot easier, yeah. That way I won’t have to keep on switching,” said Tom.

Professor Sergan has also been instrumental in perfecting LCD screens, first invented in the 1970s.

Your big-screen TV, laptops and smart phones – everyday items we use.

Over the last 30 years, Sergan and 10,000 other scientists made the images on those screens sharper and visible from all angles.

“Try to remember what you’ve seen, say 10 years back. Your laptop screen was really bad. Just tilt it a little bit, you cannot see anything. Nowadays, they’re almost perfect,” said Sergan.

Now in his 10th year at Sac State, Sergan has won a number of awards for his research and has come a long way from his home in cold war era Ukraine.

But the one dream he hasn’t achieved? “Every physicist will say Nobel Prize, but we all know it’s not going to happen,” said Sergan, while laughing.

The LCD lenses that Sergan developed are also being considered for soldiers in combat.

There are prototypes built but they’re not currently being manufactured. Professor Sergan says it could be a couple of years before the lenses are mass produced.

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