Bionic’ Ear Combines Electronics and Biology
Scientists at Princeton University have used conventional printing tools to create an ear that is able to “hear” frequencies far beyond the range of human hearing. The purpose was to find an effective way to merge electronics with tissue. They used 3D printing of cells and nanoparticles followed by a cell culture to combine a coil antenna with cartilage, creating a ‘bionic ear’
“In general, there are mechanical and thermal challenges with interfacing electronic materials with biological materials,” said Michael McAlpine, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton and the lead researcher. “Previously, researchers have suggested some strategies to tailor the electronics so that this merger is less awkward. That typically happens between a 2D sheet of electronics and a surface of the tissue. However, our work suggests a new approach — to build and grow the biology up with the electronics synergistically and in a 3D interwoven format.”
The finished ear is able to hear radio waves, but the research team hope to develop this further by including pressure-sensitive electronic sensors, so the ear is able to register acoustic sounds.