New ‘Artificial Eye’ Gives Blind People New Hope
A team of US researchers has, for the first time, developed a fully 3-D printed array of light receptors on a hemispherical surface. This discovery marks a significant step toward creating a “bionic eye” that could someday help blind people see or improve sighted people see better.
Michael McAlpine, a researcher from the University of Minnesota, said: “Bionic eyes are usually thought of as science fiction, but now we are closer than ever using a multi-material 3-D printer.”
Researchers used a custom-built 3-D printer, and they started with a base ink of silver particles. Then, they used semiconducting polymer materials to print photodiodes, which convert light into electricity. The entire process takes about an hour, the German News Agency reported.
The Techxplore website cited McAlpine who said that the most surprising part of the process was the 25 percent efficiency in converting the light into electricity they achieved with the fully 3-D-printed semiconductors.
McAlpine said the next steps aim to create a prototype with more receptors that are even more efficient. They'd also like to find a way to print on a soft material that can be implanted into a real eye.
McAlpine's drive to create a bionic eye is a little more personal.
“My mother is blind in one eye, and whenever I talk about my work, she says, When are you going to print me a bionic eye?” he said.