November 2016 Asian Scientist and Oct 2016 Medical Xpress

A research team in South Korea has developed cochlear implant technology that is based on the principles of frictional electricity, or triboelectricity. Their work was published in Advanced Healthcare Materials. For a sensorineural hearing loss patient, a cochlear implant operation is the only known way to recover hearing. However, complicated electrical signal processing circuits, frequent battery charging, and expensive unit costs are drawbacks. To overcome the limits of existing cochlear implant technology, Professor Hongsoo Choi and his team developed a triboelectric-based artificial basilar membrane (TEABM) that makes use of frictional electricity generated between layers of polyimide and aluminum films.

TriboelectricityTriboelectric-based artificial basilar membrane (TEABM).

Behind the TEABM's effectiveness is a triboelectric nanogenerator, which transforms mechanical energy into electrical energy by using the electrostatic induction and triboelectric charges of the two films. Using deafened guinea pigs as an animal model of hearing loss, the researchers showed that their TEABM technology restored the impaired animals' hearing ability. In addition, they measured the auditory brainstem response of the animals and showed that the TEABM's receiving sensitivity is seven times higher. "TEABM is a viable technology for developing next-generation cochlear implants which do not require batteries or a complex electrical signal process circuit," said Choi. "We will make further efforts to commercialise the technology for severe hearing loss patients.”

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