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Professor Zhiyong Fan is a Professor in the Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering and head of the Functional and Advanced Nanostructures (FAN) Laboratory at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and he joins the show to discuss the development of a new bionic eye that would enable robots and people with blindness to see.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • What is anatomically different about cephalopod eyes that makes them superior even to human eyes
  • Why it has been so challenging to design spherical or hemispherical light sensors
  • How the bionic eye being developed could be self-powered, with no need for an external energy supply
  • Why “superhuman” vision might not actually be something people want

Fan’s initial inspiration for his current work stemmed from something that’s a source of inspiration for many: sci-fi films. In particular, he was amazed by the idea of creating a sophisticated artificial eye structure that could function like the human eye.

He explains that all of the current technology utilizing light sensing materials are restricted by flat rather than spherical substrates…that is, until about 2016 when Fan had the idea to use a porous hemispherical template to host light sensing material to form an artificial retina. This template is filled with semi-conductive nanowires which form a 3D array in a way that allows them to stand vertically inside the template and point toward the center of the sphere. The result? A structure very similar to that of the human retina.

Fan goes on to explain the next step in the creation of this aptly named “bionic eye,” the details of the processes which have led to the current product, how a bionic eye of this sort would work, the potential ways in which this technology could be further developed, and the feasibility of developing a bionic eye that can be fully implanted into a human eye socket.

Interested in learning more? Tune in and check out

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