Scientists in Princeton University have used the 3D printing technology to create a new medical device. Using metal nanoparticles and live cells, they were able to use a 3D printer to make a bionic ear with an integrated coil antenna. The amazing thing is that the organ is fully functional, can receive radio waves, and may enhance the sense of hearing.
The team, led by Michael McAlpine, described how they used a 3D printer to construct the ear. They deposited layers of materials with the help of a computer simulated model of the human ear. The 3D printer laid down an intricate web of hydrogel, calf cells that eventually turned into cartilage, while silver nanoparticles formed the antenna. Based on the 3D printing technology, the team was able to weave the circuitry into the tissue itself.
Further research still needs to be carried out before the device can be used by people, but the early results are very promising. The device can be attached to nerve endings to enhance or restore hearing. This field of study, also known as cybernetics, involves the design and implementation of bionic organs that can enhance human capabilities.