A team of researchers has developed an evidence-of-concept bionic eye that could exceed the sensitivity of a human one. The eye is, in essence, a 3D artificial retina with a highly dense array of incredibly light-sensitive nanowires.
Scientists might be able soon to use the artificial eye for better humanoid robotics and vision prostheses. Here is all you need to know.
The Concept of a Bionic Human Eye
The team, led by researcher Zhiyong Fan from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, lined a curved aluminum oxide membrane with small perovskite sensors – a light-sensitive material that’s been utilized in solar cells. Then, they used some wires that stimulate the brain’s visual cortex and sent the optical data collected by these sensors to a computer for processing.
The nanowires are so sensitive they could exceed the optical wavelength level of the human eye, allowing it to respond to almost 800-nanometer wavelengths (the threshold between the visual light and infrared radiation). Such a thing means that it could see objects in the dark when the human eye couldn’t.
The researchers also explained that the eye could respond to variations in light quicker than a human one, allowing it to adapt to changing conditions in a fraction of the time. A human user of the artificial eye will have, too, a fantastic night vision skill.
Every square centimeter of the artificial retina can handle up to 460 million nanosize sensors, minimizing the estimated 10 million cells in the human retina. It could also exceed the visual accuracy of the human eye.
“I think in about 10 years, we should see some very tangible practical applications of these bionic eyes,” stated Hongrui Jiang, an electrical engineer from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who wasn’t part of the team.
Fan said plenty of work still has to be done to attach the artificial eye to the human visual system.