Published Date : Aug 30, 2018
Researchers from the University of Minnesota have successfully demonstrated, for the first time, 3D printing of several light receptors on a semicircular surface. The discovery takes the research world a step closer to the development of a bionic eye, which could allow blind people to see someday. While bionic eyes are still considered more of a science fiction, researchers are now closer than ever to making this a reality owing to the presence of multi-material 3D printers.
The researchers started their work using a semicircular glass dome to see how they can work out around the challenge of printing electronics on curved structures. With the help of a custom-built 3D printer, the researchers started their work with a silver particle base ink. During experiments, the dispersed ink remained in place and uniformly dried instead of flowing down the curved surface. The researchers followed the experiment using semiconducting polymer materials for printing photodiodes, the electronic devices used for converting light into electricity.
Surprisingly, the process resulted into a fully 3D-printed semiconductor product that had 25% efficiency of converting light into electricity. While the research world still has a long way to go to printing reliable active elements, but the 3D printed semiconductors show immense promise as they have started to demonstrate efficiency comparable to semiconductor devices manufactured conventionally. Moreover, this method can easily be able to print semiconductors on curved surfaces while microfabrication techniques are not capable of doing it.
The researchers next plant to develop a prototype with the help of more light receptors that are more efficient as compared to the present outcome. The researchers are also seeking a way to print soft curved materials that can be implanted into real eyes.