The Back Page
Physicists develop artificial
retina – an interface to
the optical nerve
Physicists at Technische Universität München (TUM) are using the
special properties of
graphene to produce key elements of an artificial retina. Middle East
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
ground-breaking 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 10 years. In
July 2014 the program took on 66 new
partners, including the TUM.
Optical prostheses for blind people
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.
With their ambitious research project,
the TUM researchers have now secured
a place in the “Graphene” Flagship Program.
The TUM is also involved in the
second EU Flagship Program “The Human
Brain Project” – coordinating the
of upload: 16th Sep 2014