Development of ultrasensitive biomimetic auditory hair cells based on piezoresistive hydrogel nanocomposites

Hadi Ahmadi, Hamed Moradi, Christopher J. Pastras, Sajad Abolpour Moshizi, Shuying Wu, Mohsen Asadnia*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

With an ageing population, hearing disorders are predicted to rise considerably in the following decades. Thus, developing a new class of artificial auditory system has been highlighted as one of the most exciting research topics for biomedical applications. Herein, a design of a biocompatible piezoresistive-based artificial hair cell sensor is presented consisting of a highly flexible and conductive polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) nanocomposite with vertical graphene nanosheets (VGNs). The bilayer hydrogel sensor demonstrates excellent performance to mimic biological hair cells, responding to acoustic stimuli in the audible range between 60 Hz to 20 kHz. The sensor output demonstrates stable mid-frequency regions (~4-9 kHz), with the greatest sensitivity as high frequencies (~13-20 kHz). This is somewhat akin to the mammalian auditory system, which has remarkable sensitivity and sharp tuning at high frequencies due to the "active process". This work validates the PVA/VGN sensor as a potential candidate to play a similar functional role to that of the cochlear hair cells, which also operate over a wide frequency domain in a viscous environment. Further characterizations of the sensor show that increasing the sound amplitude results in higher responses from the sensor while taking it to the depth drops the sensor outputs due to attenuation of sound in water. Meanwhile, the acoustic pressure distribution of sound waves is predicted through finite element analysis, whereby the numerical results are in perfect agreement with experimental data. This proof-of-concept work creates a platform for the future design of susceptible, flexible biomimetic sensors to closely mimic the biological cochlea. 

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44904-44915
Number of pages12
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Volume13
Issue number37
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sep 2021

Keywords

  • artificial hair cell
  • hydrogel sensor
  • graphene
  • biocompatibility
  • piezoresistive sensor

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