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Mini solar cells for nerve stimulation

Tony Schmidt (l.), Rainer Schindl (both Medical University of Graz) and Theresa Rienmüller of the Graz University of Technology © Lunghammer/TU Graz

The method was developed within the context of a joint effort by researchers from Graz University of Technology, the Medical University of Graz, the University of Zagreb and the Central European Institute of Technology in the Czech Republic. The basis of this technology involves colour pigments from the food industry, such as those used in organic solar cells. The pigments are vapour-deposited to form a layer which is only a few nanometres thick, where they convert light into electrical charge, just like in organic solar cells. Nerve cells that adhere to the film react to this charge and in turn fire electrical impulses with which they stimulate other nerve cells. The researchers were able to demonstrate this process for the first time in cell biological experiments.

In contrast to the current usual electrostimulation via metal electrodes, the pigment films represent a completely new way of stimulating nerve cells. The films are so thin that they can be implanted easily. Thanks to their organic nature, the pigment films are extremely well tolerated. The researchers see potential applications in the case of severe brain injuries, other neurological injuries or pain therapy. Moreover, the technology could be used to create new types of retinal implants.

Continue reading and find out more about renowned research institutions in Austria!

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