Physicists at Technische Universität München (TUM) are using the special properties of graphene to produce key elements of an artificial retina. With their research program, the researchers were admitted to the heavily funded Graphene Flagship Program of the EU.
Graphene is viewed as a kind of “miracle solution.” It is thin, transparent, and has a tensile strength greater than that of steel. In addition, it conducts electricity better than copper. Since it comprises only a single layer of carbon atoms, it is considered two-dimensional. In 2010 the scientists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov were awarded the Nobel Prize for their groundbreaking work on this material.
In October 2013, the Graphene project was selected alongside the Human Brain Project as a Flagship Project of the EU FET Initiative (Future and Emerging Technologies). Under the supervision of Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, it bundles the research activities and will be funded with one billion euro over ten years. In July 2014 the program took on 66 new partners, including the TUM.
Because of its unusual properties, graphene holds great potential for applications, especially in the field of medical technology. A team of researchers led by Dr. Jose A. Garrido at the Walter Schottky Institut of the TUM is taking advantage of these properties. In collaboration with partners from the Institut de la Vision of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris and the French company Pixium Vision, the physicists are developing key components of an artificial retina made of graphene.
Retina implants can serve as optical prostheses for blind people whose optical nerves are still intact. The implants convert incident light into electrical impulses that are transmitted to the brain via the optical nerve. There, the information is transformed into images. Although various approaches for implants exist today, the devices are often rejected by the body and the signals transmitted to the brain are generally not optimal.
In contrast to the traditionally used materials, graphene has excellent biocompatibility thanks to its great flexibility and chemical durability. With its outstanding electronic properties, graphene provides an efficient interface for communication between the retina prosthesis and nerve tissue.
Release Date: August 7, 2014
Source: Technische Universität München