Eyes and invisibility at the Royal Society

Eyes and invisibility at the Royal Society

Summary: A method for making objects invisible in water and retinal implants to help the blind see were among the cutting-edge projects on display at the Royal Society's annual science fair

TOPICS: Emerging Tech

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  • Sodium polyacrylate immersed in water

    On Monday, ZDNet UK visited the Royal Society's annual Summer Science Exhibition, which brings together cutting-edge science and technology projects under way at British universities.

    In one exhibit, academics from the University of St Andrews demonstrated various approaches to render objects invisible.

    One method is to use materials with the same reflective properties as their background. To demonstrate this, the university researchers filled a container with a mixture of water and geometric shapes made of sodium polyacrylate. Because the reflectivity of sodium polyacrylate is the same as that of water, light does not bounce off an object made of the material when it is immersed in the liquid. Instead, it passes through the material and the water at the same rate, making the object nearly impossible to see.

    While this technique is a helpful illustration of invisibility via reflectivity, it is impractical because to use it the object must be entirely composed of sodium polyacrylate, a spokesman for St Andrews conceded.

    Photo credit: Jack Clark

  • Retinal implant for retinitis pigmentosa blindness

    Oxford University researchers demonstrated a retinal implant for restoring sight to individuals who suffer from the retinitis pigmentosa family of degenerative vision conditions.

    The implant replaces the eye's light-sensitive receptors with an array of around 1,500 receptors affixed to the implantable cell (pictured, bottom left). Each receptor is attached to a photocell, to detect light as it falls into the retina of the implantee; an amplifying circuit, to boost the generated signal; and a stimulation electrode to pass information on to the brain.

    A person with this implant will no longer be blind, and will instead see a pixelated view of the world in black, white and the shades in between, according to Retina Implant, which manufactures the device.

    Oxford University researchers will lead a clinical trial to implant the device into UK patients who have become blind in at least one eye due to retinitis pigmentosa. The trial is set to begin in September. The implant is powered by an inductive coil (pictured, top left), which sits behind the person's ear, under the skin.

    Photo credit: Jack Clark

Topic: Emerging Tech

Jack Clark

About Jack Clark

Currently a reporter for ZDNet UK, I previously worked as a technology researcher and reporter for a London-based news agency.

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