Scientists have developed the world’s first artificial 3D eye with better capabilities than existing bionic eyes, and in some cases even exceed those of the human eyes.
The main feature that makes such breakthroughs is a 3D artificial retina – made up of a series of nanowire light sensors that imitate human retinas’ photoreceptors.
Developed by Prof. FAN Zhiyong and Dr. GU Leilei from HKUST’s Department of Electronics and Computer Engineering, the team connected the nanowire light sensors to a bundle of liquid-metal wires that served as nerves behind the human-made hemispheric retina during the experiment, and successfully replicated the visual signal transmission to reflect what the eye sees on the computer monitor.
Those nanowire light sensors could be connected directly to the visually impaired patients’ nerves in the future.
Unlike in a human eye where optic nerve fiber bundles (for signal transmission) have to pass across the retina through a pore – from the front of the retina to the back (thus establishing a blind spot in human vision) before entering the brain.
The light sensors now scattering around the entire human-made retina could feed each signal through their own liquid-metal wire at the back, removing the issue of the blind spot because they do not have to route through a single spot.
Besides that, because nanowires in the human retina have a much higher density than photoreceptors, the artificial retina will, therefore, obtain more light signals and theoretically achieve a higher image resolution than the human retina – if the back contacts individual nanowires.
The artificial eye can also perform other functions, such as night vision, with various materials used to improve the sensitivity and spectral range of the sensors.