The research is published today in Advanced Materials, a peer-reviewed scientific journal covering materials science. The author also holds the patent for 3D-printed semiconducting devices.
“Bionic eyes are usually thought of as science fiction, but now we are closer than ever using a multimaterial 3D printer,” said Michael McAlpine, a co-author of the study and University of Minnesota Benjamin Mayhugh Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering.
Researchers started with a hemispherical glass dome to show how they could overcome the challenge of printing electronics on a curved surface.
Using their custom-built 3D printer, they started with a base ink of silver particles. The dispensed ink stayed in place and dried uniformly instead of running down the curved surface. The researchers then used semiconducting polymer materials to print photodiodes, which convert light into electricity.
The entire process takes about an hour.