A More Natural Artificial Eye

Case Western Reserve University’s Eric Baer, PhD, and his colleagues have created an artificial lens that mimics a healthy 5-yearold’s eye.

A More Natural Artificial Eye

The Gradient Refractive Index lens, or GRIN lens, gradually bends light as it passes through layers of two kinds of polymers, each just nanometers thick. Every one of the polymers has a different refractive index, which means light travels through them at different speeds.

Unlike eyeglasses, the lens can maintain focus across its surface—in practice, to the corners of the eye—and also can focus near and far.

“The efficiency of GRIN lenses and their light weight make them desirable for cameras, telescopes, as well as, eventually, A More Natural Artificial Eye replacement lenses for human eyes,” says Baer, Distinguished University Professor, Herbert Henry Dow Professor of Science and Engineering and director of the university’s Center for Layered Polymer Systems. “GRIN lenses have a basis in biology. They are inspired by fish eyes that can focus light in water.”

Members of the research team include doctoral student Shanzuo Ji, as well as scientists at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind., and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. Also collaborating was alumnus Michael Ponting, PhD (GRS ’10), who co-founded the company Polymer Plus in Valley View, Ohio, based on the layering technologies developed at Baer’s center.