Researchers have fully 3D-printed an array of light receptors on a hemispherical surface.
In layman’s terms: We are one step closer to creating a “bionic eye.”
The groundbreaking discovery is described in a paper published this week by the journal Advanced Materials.
“Bionic eyes are usually thought of as science fiction,” study co-author Michael McAlpine, professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Minnesota, said in a statement. “But now we are closer than ever using a multimaterial 3D printer.“
While a number of visual prosthetics are currently under development across the globe, none have tapped into technology in the same way as the Twin Cities team.
Their clever hemispherical glass dome makes it easier to print ink and photodiodes (used to convert light into electricity) directly onto a curved surface—pretty ideal for replicating the human eye.
The entire process, which is still in its infancy, takes about an hour to complete, according to the University.
“We have a long way to go to routinely print active electronics reliably,” McAlpine admitted, adding that his 3D-printed semiconductors could one day rival those made in microfabrication facilities.
“Plus, we can easily print a semiconducting device on a curved surface, and they can’t,” he boasted.
Known for integrating 3D printing, electronics, and biology in a single platform, McAlpine & Co. previously designed a “bionic ear,” artificial organs, “bionic skin,” and cells, among other innovative products.
This time, however, it’s 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?’” McAlpine said.
He’s working on it, Mom!
The next step is to create a more efficient prototype with additional light receptors; there is also talk of printing on a soft hemispherical material that can be implanted into a real eye.
3D printing has been used for project big (building a house) and small (creating color-changing accessories). Check out the coolest things to ever be 3D-printed, and find out more about the technology here.
Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.