Scientists use 3D printer to make bionic ear
Using a 3D printer, scientists from Princeton University have successfully created a bionic ear. Looking to find the most efficient way to merge electronics with tissue, the Princeton team used cells and nanoparticles, followed by a cell culture, to combine a small coil antenna with cartilage. This was the team's first effort to create a fully functional organ.
This creation extends beyond electronics, as it combines biological elements as well. Where standard body part engineering involves seeding types of cells onto a polymer material, the technique used in this creation involved replicating complicated 3D biological structures. The printer layered a variety of materials – ranging from plastic to cells – to build up a finished product. The team then combined the tissue with antenna electronics, which was a combination of polymer and calf cells, with silver nanoparticles. The calf cells later develop into cartilage.
Cybernetics – the design and implementation of bionic organs and devices that enhance human capabilities – is a fast-growing field and provides great potential for researchers. The ear created in this project, for example, has the capacity to hear radio frequencies beyond the capabilities of the human ear.