Objective: Foreign body response to indwelling cortical microelectrodes limits the reliability of neural stimulation and recording, particularly for extended chronic applications in behaving animals. The extent to which this response compromises the chronic stability of neural devices depends on many factors including the materials used in the electrode construction, the size, and geometry of the indwelling structure. Here, we report on the development of microelectrode arrays (MEAs) based on amorphous silicon carbide (a-SiC).
Approach: This technology utilizes a-SiC for its chronic stability and employs semiconductor manufacturing processes to create MEAs with small shank dimensions. The a-SiC films were deposited by plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition and patterned by thin-film photolithographic techniques. To improve stimulation and recording capabilities with small contact areas, we investigated low impedance coatings on the electrode sites. The assembled devices were characterized in phosphate buffered saline for their electrochemical properties.
Main results: MEAs utilizing a-SiC as both the primary structural element and encapsulation were fabricated successfully. These a-SiC MEAs had 16 penetrating shanks. Each shank has a cross-sectional area less than 60 µm2 and electrode sites with a geometric surface area varying from 20 to 200 µm2. Electrode coatings of TiN and SIROF reduced 1 kHz electrode impedance to less than 100 kΩ from ~2.8 MΩ for 100 µm2 Au electrode sites and increased the charge injection capacities to values greater than 3 mC cm-2. Finally, we demonstrated functionality by recording neural activity from basal ganglia nucleus of Zebra Finches and motor cortex of rat.
Significance: The a-SiC MEAs provide a significant advancement in the development of microelectrodes that over the years has relied on silicon platforms for device manufacture. These flexible a-SiC MEAs have the potential for decreased tissue damage and reduced foreign body response. The technique is promising and has potential for clinical translation and large scale manufacturing.