“Bionic eyes are usually treated as science fiction, but now we are closer than ever before, using a multi-materials 3D printer“,said Michael McAlpine, one of the researchers in the research -which was published in Advanced Materials– and an associate professor at the university. The researchers began with a hemispherical glass dome to show how they were able to print electronically on a convex surface. Using their special 3D printer, they began with a basic ink from silver particles. The ink remained in place and dried uniformly instead of sliding on the convex surface. The researchers then used polymeric semiconductor materials to print photodiodes, which convert light into electricity. The whole process takes about an hour. McAlpine noted that the most surprising feature of the process is the efficiency of 25% to the light converted into electricity, which is reached with full 3D printed semiconductors.
“We still have a long way to go until we can reliably print electronically, but our 3D printed semiconductors are now starting to show that they could potentially compete with the performance of semiconductor devices produced in microfabrication facilities“,he said.
“Also, we can easily print a semiconductor device on a convex surface while they do not”,he added. McAlpine and his team are known for combining 3D printing, electronics, and biology in a single platform: A few years ago had become internationally known for creating a “bionic ear”. Since then, they have made extremely realistic artificial instruments for surgeon training, an electronic cloth that could be used as a “bionic skin”, have printed electronically directly in hand on the move, and more. However, for McAlpine, the bionic eye was more personal, as his mother is blind from one eye.
“My mother is blind to one eye, and whenever I tell her about my job, she tells me” when will you print me a bionic eye?”,he said. The next steps of the researchers include creating a more efficient prototype with more light sensing, as well as finding a way of printing on soft, hemispherical material that can be implanted in real eyes. Source: naftemporiki.gr
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