Diamond Coatings for the Retinal Implant
Argonne National Laboratory
(ANL) plays a critical role in the success of the electrode implants
used in the Artificial Retina Project. That’s where researchers
Orlando Auciello and colleague John Carlisle are using their patented
ultrananocrystalline diamond (UNCD) technology to apply a revolutionary
new coating to the retinal prosthetic device. The new packaging
promises to provide a very thin, ultrasmooth film that will be
far more compact and biocompatible than the bulky materials used
to encase the earlier prototypes (models 1 and 2).
wearing a skin instead of a space suit,” says Mark Humayun
(Doheny Eye Institute at the University of Southern California),
leader of the Artificial Retina Project.
UNCD is a form of carbon
that captures many of the properties of diamond and can be deposited
on a wide variety of surfaces in thin layers. The diamond grains
used in the coating are only 2 to 5 nanometers in size (a nanometer
is about 10,000 times narrower than a human hair). These films
are as hard as single-crystal diamond, the hardest known material
on earth. Unlike natural diamond, however, its properties can
be adjusted and optimized for a given application.
Considered to be a
platform technology, UNCD has numerous potential beneficial applications
in such areas as medicine, transportation, and industrial production.
It is chemically inert (nonreactive) and compatible with biological
tissues, traits that make it useful in retinal prosthetic implants
as well as other biodevices such as an artificial pancreas. Additionally,
the material is a superb electrical insulator but also can be
made to be highly conductive, and this conductivity can be tuned.
This work has led to the use of UNCD for biosensors that use electrochemical
reactions to detect biomolecules.
Parts of the UNCD technology
received a 2003 R&D 100 award, an honor given to the most
innovative developments that occur in a particular year. The technology
has been licensed to Advanced Diamond Technologies (Champaign,
Il.), a company founded by Carlisle and Auciello.
From the National
Labs to the Public
A goal of the national
laboratories is to provide benefits to industry and the public
by moving discoveries into everyday use, a process called technology
transfer. This practice leads to benefits for everyone and demonstrates
the value of using tax dollars to support early-stage scientific
research. In recognition of their efforts toward that end, Carlisle
and Auciello received the 2006 Award for Excellence in Technology
Transfer from the Federal Laboratory Consortium.
first national laboratory, ANL conducts basic and applied scientific
research across a wide spectrum of disciplines, ranging from high-energy
physics to climatology and biotechnology. Since 1990, Argonne
has worked with more than 600 companies and numerous federal agencies
and other organizations to help advance America’s scientific
leadership and prepare the nation for the future.
Argonne is managed by the University of Chicago for the U.S. Department
of Energy’s Office of Science.