This 3D printed bionic ear can hear things you can't

Credit: Frank Wojciechowski

Scientists at Princeton University have done something remarkable. They've married the virtues of medical 3D printing and cutting-edge electronics to create a truly bionic organ. Their creation: an ear that uses an embedded antenna to hear better than any human being alive.

To create such an organ, the team of scientists had to surmount some very unique challenges. For starters, they had to merge electronics with mammalian tissues; something that they discovered 3D printing was uniquely suited to solve. By building the biological tissues as they created the electronics that would eventually be embedded in the ear, the scientists were able to create a fully integrated organ comprised of interwoven layers of tissue and circuitry. (Specifically, calf cells and nanoparticles of silver.) The resulting antenna-embedded ear can hear radio frequencies and other ranges of sound far beyond the capabilities of us mere mortals.

Impressively, they achieved this result with off-the-shelf 3D printing and electronics supplies. That means that even greater standards of specialization and form might be possible with a bit of retooling. Especially given the example of other, already 3D printed ears that resemble those of their human recipients with near-perfect results.


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