Researchers at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology have created a bionic eye that can surpass the sensitivity of the human eye.
The device is a three-dimensional artificial retina, which has received a high-density matrix of light-sensitive nanowires.
“In the future, we can use this to improve visual prostheses and humanoid robotics,” said Jiyoung Fan, a researcher at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
The team, led by Fan, aligned the curved aluminum oxide membrane with tiny sensors made of perovskite, a light-sensitive material used in solar cells. Wires mimicking the visual cortex transmit the visual information collected by these sensors to a computer for processing.
The nanowires are so sensitive that they can exceed the optical wavelength range of the human eye, allowing it to respond to wavelengths of 800 nanometers, the threshold between visual light and infrared radiation. This means that it can see things in the dark when the human eye is no longer able to cope.
“A person using the artificial eye will acquire night vision capability,” Fan said.
Each square centimeter of the artificial retina can hold about 460 million nanoscale sensors, replacing an estimated 10 million cells in the human retina. This suggests it can exceed the visual accuracy of the human eye.
“I think for about 10 years, we should see some very tangible practical applications of these bionic eyes,” said Hongru Jang, an engineer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who was not involved in the study.