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New Prosthetic Retinas Could Restore Sight To The Blind

Graphene, is there anything it can’t do?

Michael Cruickshank
New Prosthetic Retinas Could Restore Sight To The Blind© 2018 TUM

Graphene is widely hailed as a miracle material. Made from single-atom thick strips of carbon in a honeycomb lattice, the material is both very strong, and also an incredibly efficient conductor. This has led to scientists racing to implement the material in a wide range of applications, from high-capacity batteries for electric cars, to flexible computer displays, and even super strong building materials.

Now scientists have discovered yet another revolutionary use of the material. Taking advantage of its unique bio-compatibility, a team of German scientists from the Technische Universität München (TUM) have set to work building a prosthetic retina which could restore sight to the blind. While the concept behind such an artificial retina is not new, early approaches using more conventional materials had failed, due to them being rejected by the body.

The team hopes that they can dramatically improve the quality of sight for many blind people.

The graphene retina will sit in front of the eye and works by converting light hitting the sheet of graphene into an electrical charge. This charge is then transmitted to the body’s optic nerve much in the same way that a normal, properly functioning eye would transmit its own signals to the brain.

Through this method, the team hopes that they can dramatically improve the visual quality of (and restore sight to) many blind people, who suffer from damaged retinas. While a fully functioning device is still several years away, the technology is already making waves, and the TUM team has been recently awarded admission to the well-funded EU Graphene Flagship Program to continue their groundbreaking research.

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