Scientists report they have successfully developed and tested the world’s first ultrathin artificial retina, which they believe could vastly improve on existing implantable visualisation technology for blind people.

The research was presented at the 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.

The researchers used 2D materials, including graphene and molybdenum disulphide, as well as thin layers of gold, alumina and silicon nitrate to create a flexible, high-density and curved sensor array.

The device, which resembles the surface of a flattened soccer ball or icosahedron, conforms to the size and shape of a natural retina without mechanically disturbing it.

In laboratory and animal studies, photodetectors on the device readily absorbed light and passed it through a soft external circuit board.

The circuit board housed all of the electronics needed to digitally process light, stimulate the retina and acquire signals from the visual cortex.

Based on those studies, the researchers determined that the prototype artificial retina is biocompatible and successfully mimics the structural features of the human eye, and could be an important step in the quest to develop the next generation of soft bio-electronic retinal prostheses.