Physicists at Technische Universität München (TUM) are using graphene to produce key elements of an artificial retina.
Graphene is thin, transparent and has a tensile strength greater than that of steel. In addition, it is a better conductor of electricity compared to copper; and, since it comprises a single layer of carbon atoms, it is considered two-dimensional.
A team of researchers led by Dr. Jose A. Garrido at the Walter Schottky Institut of the TUM is taking advantage of these properties to develop components of an artificial retina made of graphene. They are joined by colleagues from the Institut de la Vision of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris and the French company Pixium Vision.
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. Along with its electronic properties, graphene provides an efficient interface for communication between the retina prosthesis and nerve tissue.
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 €1bn over ten years. In July 2014 the program took on 66 new partners, including the TUM.