New methods for interfacing high-performance functional devices with biology have the potential to impact regenerative medicine, smart prosthetics, and human-machine interfaces. Indeed, this ability to three-dimensionally weave functional and biological materials could lead to the creation of devices that possess unique geometries, properties, and functionalities, and therefore, the development of a host of bioelectronic and biomedical applications.
Unfortunately, commercial 3D printers print primarily plastics and rubbers, whereas tissues, organs, and skin are soft, stretchable, and compliant. Enter Dr. Michael C. McAlpine and his team of mechanical engineers who have created a one-of-a-kind 3D printer that expands the printing palette to include materials such as cells, hydrogels, soft polymers, anatomically accurate and compliant biomedical devices, and even functional active electronics.
The development of this unique printer has allowed McAlpine and his team of researchers to publish the first example of a completely 3D-printed bionic organ, as well as the first 3D-printed LEDs. Bionic skin, anyone? They’ve done that, too.
Says McAlpine, “This is a completely new way to approach 3D printing of a whole host of materials and it could take us into so many directions from health monitoring to energy harvesting to chemical sensing. The possibilities for the future are endless.”
Michael C. McAlpine is the Benjamin Mayhugh Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Minnesota where his research focuses on the 3D printing of functional materials and devices, including the three-dimensional interweaving of biological and electronic materials using 3D printing. In 2013, McAlpine garnered international acclaim for integrating electronics and 3D-printed nanomaterials to create a “bionic ear.” He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Institutes of Health Director’s New Innovator Award, a TR35 Young Innovator Award, an Air Force Young Investigator Award, the Intelligence Community Young Investigator Award, a DuPont Young Investigator Award, a National Academy of Sciences Frontiers Fellow, a DARPA Young Faculty Award, an American Asthma Foundation Early Excellence Award, the Extreme Mechanics Letters Young Lecturer Award, and an invitation to join the National Academy of Engineering’s Frontiers in Engineering. In January 2017, then President Barack Obama honored McAlpine with a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, a recognition reserved for “the finest scientists and engineers who, while early in their research careers, show exceptional potential for leadership at the frontiers of scientific knowledge during the 21st century.”
Follow Headliners on Facebook and Twitter: @LearningLife, #umnheadliners
Follow Mechanical Engineering on Facebook and Twitter: @umnme
Follow the College of Science & Engineering on Facebook and Twitter: @umncse
Headliners tickets are nonrefundable. If you have questions, please call the Information Center at 612-624-4000.