Solar Powered Artificial Retina

Solar Powered Artificial Retina

Posted under Low Vision Info, The Eye

In this day of ever changing and ever improving technology, those with low vision will get to “see” the benefits of implantable devices and artificial retinals.   One company out of New Jersey, called Natcore, is working on developing a retinal implant that is different from other current devices.   This artificial retina is different in two ways – the way it is powered and that it has no need for external devices like a video camera.


Powered by The Sun

With some devices that are powered by batteries, the batteries must be replaced or recharged after an extended period of time.  With this retinal implant there is no need for batteries or battery chargers, because it uses coated carbon nanotubes that act as solar cells.  When light enters the eye it is focused onto the artificial retina by the lens which causes a buildup of voltage which ultimately leads to a visual signal being sent to the brain.   Not only do these nanotubes generate the solar power, they act as rods and cones, photoreceptor cells, that convert light into signals.


No External Camera

Some of the newer high-tech macular degeneration glasses, use a video camera to enhance the wearers usable vision.  While these special glasses greatly improve vision, the external devices are bulky and draw attention to the fact a person has low vision.


“There are several other patents for artificial retinas,” says Dr. Dennis Flood, Natcore’s Chief Technology Officer and the inventor of the device. “But all of them have limitations. Some require the patient to have sight. Some restore only limited acuity, or the ability to detect motion or to distinguish between light and dark. Some are bulky and/or require prosthesis. Ours is a self-powered implant that doesn’t require a camera, a transmitter, or any other external device. It would work as long as the patient’s nerves are alive and only the rods and cones are affected. And it has the potential to be wavelength selective, so that color vision could be reintroduced to people whose only prospect now is a cloudy black-and-white.”

Dr. Flood spent 33 years developing solar cell technology for the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. When his wife developed vision loss due to wet macular degeneration he focused his knowledge and years of experience into developing an artificial retina and became the co-founder and CTO of Natcore.

A flat round disc, about the size of a pencil eraser,  would be surgically implanted.  Natcore believes age related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa could be corrected with its artificial retina.   For more updates on macular degeneration research visit:


Macular Degeneration Research


Leslie Degner, RN, BSN