While still an assistant professor at Princeton University, Michael Mc'Alene oversaw the development of a 3D-printed bionic ear. After moving to the University of Minnesota, he, at the head of a team of scientists, continued his research, but already on the creation of a rudimentary bionic eye also using the method of three-dimensional printing.
The researchers first created a hemispherical glass dome that resembled the size and shape of the back of the human eye. Using a special 3D printer, they added ink streaks containing silver particles. After a drying process, a semiconducting polymer printed layer was applied over the formed substrate.
The result is an array of 3D printed photodiodes that can convert light into electrical current with an efficiency of 25%. The team of scientists intends to increase this figure and integrate many more photodiodes into the camera. Ultimately, they hope to create a fully functioning bionic eye that can be used by blind patients.
In addition, scientists are developing new ways to print photodiodes on a soft hemispherical material that can be surgically implanted into the back of a patient's eye, where it will replace the retina.