Technology 3 min read

Researchers Devised a Way to Keep Artificial Retinas Cool

Scientists found a way to keep artificial retinas cool, paving the way for the development of high-resolution digital retinas.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Researchers at Stanford have figured out a way to prevent artificial retinas from overheating.

The retina is the innermost, light-sensitive layer of tissue in the eye that’s responsible for converting images into impulses for the brain to translate. It serves a function that’s analogous to that of the image sensor or film in a camera.

That means a person can’t simply see without a functional one. Currently, millions of people across the world are suffering from retinal diseases that have led to vision impairment.

But, scientists soon came up with a way to fight retinal blindness. They invented an artificial retina from materials with electrodes to replace the natural one.

For the most part, it did. However, the implant is still a complex electronic, and like most electronic devices, it’s prone to overheating.

Now a Stanford team has found a way to solve this issue by being selective about what data the device processes.

How Artificial Retinas Work

An artificial retina function the same way a camera sensor at the back of the inner eye would.

It collects light entering the eye and translates it into electrical signals. The signals then pass through an array of electrodes before getting to the neurons that’ll relay the data to the brain, which processes it into vision.

At least, that’s how an artificial retina works in theory.

In reality, the array of electrodes are generating electrical impulses, and with it, a considerable amount of heat. As you can imagine, this could fry the tissue of the eyes, causing more harm than good.

For the implant to be of any use, scientists must figure out how to reduce that heat. And that was what the Stanford team did.

Digitizing and Compressing Visual Information

To reduce the heat, the Stanford team had to cut back the amount of data that the retina processes. With this in mind, the researchers digitized and compressed visual information before it could communicate with the neurons.

Previous versions of the artificial retinas separated these two steps. By combining them, the Stanford team was able to reduce the quantity of data that needed to be stored and transferred.

What does it all mean?

Well, current artificial retinas only use a few hundred electrodes to create an image. However, creating a high-resolution digital retina would need thousands of electrodes.

By solving the overheating problem, the Stanford researchers have taken us one step closer towards that goal.

The researchers published their paper in the journal IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Circuits and Systems.

Read More: Google AI Predicts Heart Disease and Stroke From Retinal Images

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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