New MEMS sensor based on human ear

Artificial cochlea compared with the mammalian ear

A mechanical cochlea, a device that functions much like its human counterpart in the ear, is being developed. The apparatus should be inexpensive to manufacture and could potentially capture a range of frequencies well beyond those of human hearing.

While designed primarily as a highly efficient sensor to detect sound waves underwater, the machined cochlea could one day substitute for the microphone and much of the electronics in cochlear implants at a much lower cost.

There’s some way yet to go – the device can detect sounds but hasn’t been configured to do anything with the information.