WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- University of Minnesota successfully 3D-printed an array of light receptors on a hemispherical surface to create a bionic eye.
- This is the closest scientists have ever been to developing something similar to the human eye.
- At a time when technology is progressing at a rapid pace, this groundbreaking discovery could pave the way for artificial eyes to aid blind people and improve vision.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota successfully created a bionic eye by 3D-printing. Published in the journal Advanced Materials on Tuesday, the study was the first ever to reveal the creation of a 3D-printed bionic eye using this method.
“Bionic eyes are usually thought of as science fiction, but now we are closer than ever using a multi-material 3D-printer,” reported by Michael McAlpine, lead author and associate professor of Mechanical Engineering.
He also added saying, “We have a long way to go to routinely print active electronics reliably, but our 3D-printed semiconductors are now starting to show that they could potentially rival the efficiency of semiconducting devices fabricated in micro-fabrication facilities.”
The attempt to develop the bionic eye was inspired by McAlpine’s mother who lost her vision in one eye.
She would often ask him, “When are you going to print me a bionic eye?” McAlpine related.
He has since been testing various methods to create a viable bionic eye that will provide light to people who have lived their lives in darkness.
3D-printing on flat surfaces is common, while printing light receptors on a curved surface is a laborious task. It’s because the ink had a tendency to flow on the bent areas like runny fluid. To counter this, the researchers used a base ink on the hemispherical dome made of silver particles that stayed in place and dried uniformly when dispensed.
Then with the use of semiconducting polymer materials, photodiodes were printed on the surface of the dome. This is to convert light into electrical signals that can be processed into actual images.
McAlpine’s team has successfully developed artificial body parts in the past, including a bionic ear. These were used by surgeons to practice on, as well as a bionic skin for people with spinal cord injuries to regain cells and function.
Further steps for the team will include printing more efficient light receptors onto a soft surface that could be implanted on a real eye instead of the glass dome. They hope that this would enable people who have poor vision to see better, and blind people to be able to restore their eyesight.