A bionic eye could give sight to millions of people with problems within just five years, experts say.
The world's first 3D artificial eyeball is capable of providing a sharper vision than a real human eye. The images of the bionic eye are processed by a cluster of tiny sensors that mirror the photoreceptor cells that can detect light.
How does the bionic eye work?
The biomimetic artificial eye presented in a paper in the journal Nature it is an artificial visual system that imitates the human eye. A lens is fixed over an opening in an "eyeball", which consists of a metal shell in the front, an artificial retina in the back, and an ionic liquid in the middle.
The key advancement is the hemispherical retina: The sensors are enclosed in tiny aluminum and tungsten membranes shaped like a half sphere, which imitates a retina. From the eye unravels a dense array of light-sensitive nanowires held in the pores of an aluminum oxide membrane. Nanowires mimic photoreceptor cells in biological retinas. A polymer grip supports the retina, ensuring electrical contact between the nanowires and the liquid metal wires on the back. Liquid metal wires mimic nerve fibers by transmitting signals from nanowires to external circuits for signal processing.
The eye is called EC-EYE. The acronym stands for “Electro Chemical Eye”, electrochemical eye. The device has something of the sinister HAL, the eye of the supercomputer in "A Space Odyssey," the 1968 science fiction film.
Prof. Zhiyong Fan, of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said clinical and animal studies are already planned.
"Our biomimetic eye," says the researcher, "is comparable in size to a human eye: just over two cm in diameter."
Who wants a bionic eye?
The first, possible use of such a device is in the field of visual prostheses, to help the blind or visually impaired. And it can pave the way for the "mass" good eye.
“We hope to further improve our device in terms of biocompatibility, stability and performance. Hopefully, I believe that within the next five years this technology will become practical ”.