Over the last several years, there has been a growing interest in neural implants for the study and diagnostics of neurological disorders as well as for the symptomatic treatment of central nervous system related diseases. One of the major challenges is the trade-off between small electrode sizes for high selectivity between single neurons and large electrode-tissue interface areas for excellent stimulation and recording properties. This paper presents an approach of increasing the real surface area of the electrodes by creating a surface microstructure. Two major novelties let this work stand out from existing approaches which mainly make use of porous coatings such as platinum black or iridium oxide, or Poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) (PEDOT). Roughening is carried out by a dry etching process on the silicon electrode core before being coated by a sputtered platinum layer, eliminating complicated deposition processes as for the materials described above. The technology is compatible with any commonly used coating material. In addition, the surface roughening is compatible with high aspect ratio penetrating electrode arrays such as the well-established Utah electrode array, whose unique geometry presents a challenge in the surface modification of active electrode sites. The dry etching process is well characterized and yields a high controllability of pore size and depth. This paper confirms the superior electrochemical properties including impedance, charge injection capacity, and charge storage capacity of surface engineered electrode arrays compared to conventional arrays over a period of 12 weeks. Furthermore, mechanical stability of the modified electrodes was tested by implantation in the brain of a recently deceased rat. In conclusion, the larger interface surface of the electrodes does not only decrease the impedance which should lead to enhanced Signal to noise ratio (SNR) for recording purposes, but also yields higher charge injection capacities, which improve the stimulation characteristics of the implants.
Biomedical Microdevices – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 7, 2017
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