As a junior professor at Princeton University, Michael McAlpine had developed the development of a bionic ear from the 3D printer. McAlpine now teaches at the University of Minnesota and works to print a bionic eye that will one day be able to replace lost human eyes – along with the ability to see.
Bionic eye made of glass
McAlpine’s team began work with a glass hemisphere about the size of the back of a human eye. Subsequently, strips were printed on the hemisphere with a special 3D printer. An ink containing silver particles was used for this. Onto this ink, a semiconductor polymer was subsequently printed.
The result was a series of photodiodes from the 3D printer that can convert light into electrical voltage. The efficiency of this conversion is 25 percent.
The team now wants to further improve the efficiency of photodiodes and accommodate more of them on one of the hemispheres. The ultimate goal is to create a fully functioning bionic eye capable of replacing a human eye not only as an implant, but functionally as well, by stimulating the optic nerve when light hits the photodiodes.
In addition, the researchers are trying to print their photodiodes on a soft material that will someday be implanted in a human eye and replace the damaged retina.
There is still a long way to go, but researchers are confident that they will be able to reach this goal. The motivation for his work on the bionic eye pulls McAlpine out of his private life. ” , 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?’ “, Says the researcher.