Now, engineers from the University of Minnesota have made another significant step in the development of bionic eyes. In a paper published this week in the journal Advanced Materials, the researchers describe how they 3D printed a prototype for a synthetic eyeball, equipped with photodetectors that allow the device to pick up light. The prototype could help usher in more advanced devices for visually impaired people.
“Here we demonstrate a fully 3D-printed hemispherical photodetector array that can sensitively detect images with a wide field-of-view,” Ruitao Su, a research assistant at the University of Minnesota who worked on the project, told Digital Trends. “The high efficiency of the photodetectors and the ability to readily customize the size and layout of the design render this approach … promising for the creation of bionic eyes.”
To make the device, the researchers began with a hemispherical glass cone, which they used as a sort of canvass to 3D print an array of photodetectors. Silver nanoparticles were used as conductive interconnections, and a couple layers of semiconductive components helped convert light into electricity. Finally, liquid metal was used to print cathodes on top. The whole process, which took about an hour, is pretty complicated but still generates a relatively primitive prototype.
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