Bionic eye prototype is made with 3D printer
Researchers at the University of Minnesota printed a set of light receivers on a hemispherical surface with a 3D printer. The feat is a step toward the development of bionic eyes for the blind or those with vision problems. Advanced Materials magazine published the paper.
There is significant difficulty in printing electronics on a curved surface. To overcome the problem, the scientists began with a semispherical glass dome. Then they used a custom 3D printer to apply silver-based paint to it. The ink stayed where it waited and dried evenly. This allowed them to use semiconductor polymers to print the photodiodes, responsible for converting light into electrical current. The entire process takes about 1 hour.
According to one of the authors of the project, Professor of Mechanical Engineering Michael McAlpine, the biggest surprise was that they achieved 25% efficiency in converting light into electricity with the device. For him, there is still much to develop the printing of this type of electronic routinely, but the research shows the potential of the 3D printer used by them.
McAlpine and his team have already developed further research uniting 3D printing, electronics, and biology. A few years ago, they produced a bionic ear. From then on, they continued to produce artificial organs for surgical training, an electronic tissue that can serve as a bionic skin, among other devices.
The next step of the research is to create a prototype with more light receptors that is even more efficient. The team also plans to figure out how to print on a surface that can be implanted in a real eye.