Engineers from Princeton 3D printed an ear developed from calf cells and silver nanoparticles that picks up radio signals at frequencies beyond human capacity.
Instead of adding electronic parts to an ear, the team decided to try and integrate the two from the start.
They 3-D printed hydrogel with calf cells. Hydrogel is a polymer-based gel often used as scaffolding in tissue engineering. They weaved in silver nanoparticles to create an built-in antenna coil that replaces the cochlea. The calf cells matured to become cartilage and the electronics were then encased in a highly supportive ear.
“The printed ear exhibits enhanced auditory sensing for radio frequency reception, and complementary left and right ears can listen to stereo audio music,” the authors write in a paper on the study in Nano Letters.
You, you and you, who wants to become a cyborg as soon as possible… You cool your jets. They are not planning on sewing their bionic ears on to human heads anytime soon — though research leader Michael McAlpine says it could, in theory, be connected to nerve endings like hearing aids are.
For now, the challenge they have set themselves is to generate new techniques for building potential cyborg parts.
Wait, let me write that again.
Damn, so much coolness there.
“Biological structures are soft and squishy, composed mostly of water and organic molecules, while conventional electronic devices are hard and dry, composed mainly of metals, semiconductors and inorganic dielectrics,” coauthor on the paper David Gracias from John Hopkins said. “The differences in physical and chemical properties between these two material classes could not be any more pronounced.”
The interest in bionic eyes and wearable electronics are rising and the idea of replacing all manner of organs with potentially superior parts is just too awesome for any scientist.
“This field has the potential to generate customized replacement parts for the human body, or even create organs containing capabilities beyond what human biology ordinarily provides,” the paper states.
In future incarnations, the team hopes to install pressure-sensitive electronic sensors so that it might hear acoustic sounds similar to how a real ear does.
Well, we’re all ears.