Researchers have claimed that they have created a proof-of-concept bionic eye that could be more sensitive than the human one.
“In the future, we can use this for better vision prostheses and humanoid robotics,” researcher Zhiyong Fan, at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
The eye, published in a paper in prestigious journal Nature today, in a nutshell, is a three-dimensional artificial retina that comprises highly dense light-sensitive nanowires.
The team, led by Fan, lined a curved aluminum oxide membrane with tiny sensors made of perovskite, a light-sensitive material that’s been used in solar cells.
Wires that are similar to the brain’s visual cortex transfer the visual information gathered by these sensors to a computer for processing.
These nanowires are very sensitive and they have a wider range of optical wavelengths than a human eye. So, these can respond to 800-nanometer wavelengths ( threshold between visual light and infrared light). This will allow bionic eye to see things in the night where the human eye fails.
Moreover, researchers say that it can react to the changes in a much faster way than a human eye. This will render the eye to adjust in the changing circumstances in the fraction of seconds.
The artificial retina can accommodate 460 million nanosize sensors in each square centi-meter. This is more than the human eye which can hold around 10 million cells in the human retina.
Fan told us that “we have not demonstrated the full potential in terms of resolution at this moment,” promising that eventually “a user of our artificial eye will be able to see smaller objects and further distance.”
Other researchers who were not involved in the project pointed out that plenty of work still has to be done to eventually be able to connect it to the human visual system, as Scientific American reports.
But some are hopeful.
“I think in about 10 years, we should see some very tangible practical applications of these bionic eyes,” Hongrui Jiang, an electrical engineer at the University of Wisconsin–Madison who was not involved in the research, told Scientific American.