Implants currently used in patients need to be powered by a battery.
The new device, described in the journal Nature Photonics, uses a special pair of glasses to beam near infrared light into the eye.
This powers the implant and sends the information which could help a patient see.
Diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and retinal pigmentosa result in the death of cells which can detect light in the eye.
Eventually this leads to blindness.
Retinal implants stimulate the nerves in the back of the eye, which has helped some patients to see.
Early results of a trial in the UK mean two men have gone from being totally blind to being able to perceive light and even some shapes.
However, as well as a fitting a chip behind the retina, a battery needs to be fitted behind the ear and a cable needs to join the two together.