Electronic chip imitates the retina

An international team of researchers have created a chip using non-toxic organic components that mimics the function of a retina

A woman in a lab coat with dark hair in a pony tail holds in front of her eye a green square with a circular dark lens at the centre
Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia

German and Italian scientists have created an electronic chip that mimics the retina using organic, non-toxic components.

Describing the technology in Nature Communications, the authors highlighted that existing technologies that imitate the retina often have low levels of biocompatibility.

“Recently, organic photoelectrochemical transistors have paved the way towards multimodal devices that can better couple to biological systems,” they noted.

Professor Francesca Santoro, of Forschungszentrum Jülich, shared that the organic semiconductor recognised how much light is falling on it.

“Something similar happens in our eye. The amount of light that hits the individual photoreceptors ultimately creates the image in the brain,” she explained.

The technology can be integrated more easily into biological systems, because as well as being non-toxic, it is flexible and functions using ions.

In contrast, traditional semiconductors are made from silicon, are rigid and only work with electrons.

“Our body cells specifically use ions to control certain processes and exchange information,” Santoro explained.

As part of future research, Santoro and colleagues plan on coupling the technology with biological cells and connecting a series of chips together.