The hydromechanical cochlea is a microelectromechanical system. While it does not yet generate electrical signals, it accurately collects sound data at frequencies between 4,200 hertz and 35,000 hertz, overlapping much of the range for the human ear (20 hertz to 20,000 hertz).

"This is a critical step on the way to an engineered cochlea," says NSF CAREER awardee Karl Grosh. "With controlled and repeatable methods, we've created a fluid chamber and membrane that together mimic the functions of the basilar membrane and fluid-filled chambers of the human cochlea. We expect this type of device, once perfected, to find uses in all kinds of sound-sensing applications where low power is needed."

The new device, while not the first of its kind, has three main benefits over existing artificial cochlea: the methods behind its construction are ideal for mass production; its 3-centimeter length is comparable to the unwound human cochlea, which is important for potential hearing aid applications; and because there are no moving parts, the sensor is incredibly efficient--a critical property for potential use on autonomous underwater vehicles such as unmanned military craft that rely on battery power.

MEDICA.de; Source: National Science Foundation