Aug 29, 2018 | By Thomas

A team of researchers at the University of Minnesota have fully 3D printed an array of light receptors on a hemispherical surface which could pave the way for future bionic eyes.

Credit: University of Minnesota, McAlpine Group

And they believe that the 3D printed bionic eye could someday help blind people see or sighted people see better.

"Bionic eyes are usually thought of as science fiction, but now we are closer than ever using a multimaterial 3D printer," said Michael McAlpine, a co-author of the study and University of Minnesota Benjamin Mayhugh Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering.

Researchers started with a hemispherical glass dome to show how they could overcome the challenge of printing electronics on a curved surface. Then, using a custom 3D printer, they created a base ink of silver particles onto the dome. The dispensed ink stayed in place and dried uniformly instead of running down the curved surface. The researchers then used semiconducting polymer materials to print photodiodes, semiconductors that convert light into electricity. The entire process takes about an hour.

According to McAlpine, the 3D-printed semiconductors could convert light into electricity with 25 per cent efficiency.

"We have a long way to go to routinely print active electronics reliably, but our 3D-printed semiconductors are now starting to show that they could potentially rival the efficiency of semiconducting devices fabricated in microfabrication facilities," McAlpine said. "Plus, we can easily print a semiconducting device on a curved surface, and they can't."

The team now plans to create a prototype with more light receptors that are even more efficient. They'd also like to find a way to print on a softer hemispherical material that can be implanted into a real eye.

The research has been published in the academic journal Advanced Materials.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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