An artificial retina based on semiconductor nanorods and carbon nanotubes

November 13, 2014

This novel, flexible film that can react to light is a promising step toward an artificial retina (credit: American Chemical Society)

An international team of researchers has combined semiconductor nanorods and carbon nanotubes to create a wireless, light-sensitive, flexible film that could potentially act in the place of a damaged retina.

When they tested it with a chick retina that normally doesn’t respond to light, they found that the film absorbed light, sparking neuronal activity.

Patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), for example, could potentially benefit from such a device, the researchers from Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Centers for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, and Newcastle University say. AMD usually affects people age 60 or older who have damage to a specific part of the retina, limiting their vision.

The scientists published their research in the ACS journal Nano Letters.

The authors acknowledge funding from the Israel Ministry of Science and Technology, the European Research Council, and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

Abstract of Semiconductor Nanorod–Carbon Nanotube Biomimetic Films for Wire-Free Photostimulation of Blind Retinas

We report the development of a semiconductor nanorod-carbon nanotube based platform for wire-free, light induced retina stimulation. A plasma polymerized acrylic acid midlayer was used to achieve covalent conjugation of semiconductor nanorods directly onto neuro-adhesive, three-dimensional carbon nanotube surfaces. Photocurrent, photovoltage, and fluorescence lifetime measurements validate efficient charge transfer between the nanorods and the carbon nanotube films. Successful stimulation of a light-insensitive chick retina suggests the potential use of this novel platform in future artificial retina applications.