3D printed bionic ears

Manu S. Mannoor, Ziwen Jiang, Teena James, Yong Lin Kong, Karen A. Malatesta, Winston O. Soboyejo, Naveen Verma, David H. Gracias, Michael C. McAlpine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

718 Scopus citations


The ability to three-dimensionally interweave biological tissue with functional electronics could enable the creation of bionic organs possessing enhanced functionalities over their human counterparts. Conventional electronic devices are inherently two-dimensional, preventing seamless multidimensional integration with synthetic biology, as the processes and materials are very different. Here, we present a novel strategy for overcoming these difficulties via additive manufacturing of biological cells with structural and nanoparticle derived electronic elements. As a proof of concept, we generated a bionic ear via 3D printing of a cell-seeded hydrogel matrix in the anatomic geometry of a human ear, along with an intertwined conducting polymer consisting of infused silver nanoparticles. This allowed for in vitro culturing of cartilage tissue around an inductive coil antenna in the ear, which subsequently enables readout of inductively-coupled signals from cochlea-shaped electrodes. The printed ear exhibits enhanced auditory sensing for radio frequency reception, and complementary left and right ears can listen to stereo audio music. Overall, our approach suggests a means to intricately merge biologic and nanoelectronic functionalities via 3D printing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2634-2639
Number of pages6
JournalNano letters
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 12 2013


  • Cybernetics
  • additive manufacturing
  • bioelectronics
  • cyborg organs
  • electronic implants
  • tissue engineering


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