Artificial Retina

The goal of the Artificial Retina Program is to design and build the instrumentation for a retina prosthesis for the blind.

Program Description

The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Artificial Retina Project is a collaboration of six national laboratories, four universities, and one company working together across disciplines on basic research and technology development to engineer an advanced retinal prosthesis. Revolutionary DOE technologies -- particularly in engineering, microfabrication, material sciences, and microelectronics -- are enabling much smaller, higher-resolution devices.

The device is intended to bypass the damaged eye structure of those with retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration. A miniature camera mounted in eyeglasses captures images and wirelessly sends the information to a microprocessor (worn on a belt) that converts the data to an electronic signal and transmits it to a receiver on the eye. The receiver sends the signals through a tiny, thin cable to the electrode array, stimulating it to emit pulses, transmitting the electrical signals directly to the retina's remaining viable cells. The pulses travel to the optic nerve and the brain, which perceives light and dark patterns corresponding to the electrodes stimulated.

Three models are currently in the testing stages or for sale. Model 1, with 16 electrodes, was implanted in six patients and shown to be safe and effective. A second, more compact device with 60 electrodes has been approved for sale in Europe and is currently undergoing FDA approved clinical trials in the U.S. A third, far less invasive and higher-resolution model is in the final stages of development.


The program is not presently soliciting research applications.

Future grant solicitation notices will be posted on the DOE Office of Science Grants and Contracts Web Site and at Information about preparing and submitting applications, as well as the DOE Office of Science merit review process, is at the DOE Office of Science Grants and Contracts Web Site.

Why the Program's Research is Important

This collaborative, multi-institutional effort is aimed at restoring sight to people who are blinded by retinal diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration, which affect about 6 million Americans and 20 million people worldwide. By 2020, this number is expected to double.

Dual-use DOE technologies are helping to speed the design and development of more compact implants that require less surgery time and enable optimized processing, expanded visual perceptions, and higher-resolution vision.

Future applications of this technology extend beyond the treatment of blindness to the general field of neural prostheses. Next-generation devices may ultimately lead to new approaches to help people suffering from spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s disease, deafness, and almost any other neurological disorder.

Additionally, many of the technological advances stemming from the Artificial Retina Project lend themselves to applications in other DOE-relevant areas such as bioenergy and environmental monitoring.

More Information about the Program and Its Accomplishments

Program Manager

Dean Cole, Ph.D.
Biological Systems Science Division, SC-23.2
U.S. Department of Energy, GTN Bldg.
1000 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20585-1290
Phone: (301) 903-3268
Fax: (301) 903-0567