Using 3D printing technology scientists at the University of Minnesota have created a grid of photoreceptors on the hemispherical substrate. In the future, the technology will allow to create using 3D printing, bionic eyes and return vision to the blinded people. In the future of the bionic eye, the researchers said, functionally does not differ from the real thing. And in some cases may exceed the latter.
Living eyes perceive light thanks to placed on the photoreceptor retinal neurons that transform visible light into an electrical signal. Created on a 3D printer by scientists at the University of Minnesota model the role of photoreceptor neurons play semiconductor diodes.
Recent years, engineers are actively exploring the possibility of creating bionic eyes. Some created in the past, prototypes were successfully tested on humans, however, the production of such prostheses is very expensive, since each device has to collect literally by hand. In the future technology of 3D printing can significantly reduce the cost and simplify the process of creating these implants, making them available to a wider range of people in need.
In practice to build a number of photoreceptor diodes on a curved surface is very difficult. To solve the scientists from Minnesota have created a printer for 3D printing. Before you print, scientists have dealt with the printer on the inside of the glass hemisphere is a layer of silver nanoparticles, and then layer by layer, built up the structure of the photoreceptor of them developed the same semiconducting polymer ink. The whole process of creating the bionic eye took about 1.5 hours.
According to the head of research, Michael MacAlpine, the first prototype showed a 25 percent efficiency of conversion of visible light into electrical signals, which, scientists believe, is a very good result for this early stage of development.
“Our semiconductor photoreceptors, printed on a 3D printer, begin to approach in effectiveness to similar devices manufactured by the existing industrial methods,” says McAlpine.
“In addition, 3D printing allows to apply semiconductor diodes on a curved surface. Other technologies such possibility do not give.”
In the future, scientists plan to increase the number of artificial photoreceptors. The more the photoreceptor is used, the better will be the conversion of light into an electrical signal. Also McAlpine and his colleagues want to improve the printing technology to get the possibility of creating semiconductor micro instruments not on the glass and flexible substrate, which in the future may become the basis for a future implant.
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