In 2013, a team of scientists and researchers wowed the world with their ability to 3D print an entire ear and antennae embedded in it for a cochlear implant. Now the same team brings us a new application of several technologies in tandem with 3D printing to produce quantum dot LEDs and integrate them into a regular contact lens.
This new hybrid technology allows for the lens to beam colored lights. One cannot wear the device yet as it is constructed of hard plastic and the quantum dot LEDs need an external power source but it does show that the feasibility of 3D printed electronics can be integrated into complex shapes and produce unique devices.
The team used quantum dots aka nanoparticles instead of ink as the ink. They could generate two different colors both orange and green. The 3D printer now prints the QLEDs in a series of five layers. Silver nanoparticles In a ring on the bottom thus making it the conduit for the mechanical circuit. Next came two polymer layers and supply as well as transfer the electrical current to the next layer. This layer is made up of cadmium selenide nanoparticles and are then contained in case made of zinc sulphide. The icing on this cake is a final layer of cathode made up of eutectic gallium indium.
The printer they sued cost $20,000 and was built in coordination with chemistry graduate Ian Tamargo, Barry Rand the Assistant Professor of electrical engineering, and fluid dynamics pro Hyoungsoo Kim.
Although this is a breakthrough of significant importance it’s not ready to be used as an eye piece just now. It’s going to take some more research and development but what this does prove is that with 3D printing it is possible to construct such hybrid devices and that spells good for people suffering from any number of maladies.
A so-called bionic eye is just one application but there could be devices for the heart, kidneys, knees, and anywhere else these technologies apply. With 3D printing the devices can be made quickly and the specs could even be emailed to doctors and manufacturers in just seconds. This is why 3D printing is so the rage nowadays because every time we turn around there’s some new breakthrough that pops up.
One can only wonder what will happen next with 3D printing and in the hands of capable scientists and researchers like these at the helm of industry and working on the frontier lines.
Image credit: Frank Wojciechowski