Unprotected sidewalls of implantable silicon-based neural probes and conformal coating as a solution

Npj Mater Degrad. 2021;5:5. doi: 10.1038/s41529-021-00154-9. Epub 2021 Feb 10.

Abstract

Silicon-based implantable neural devices have great translational potential as a means to deliver various treatments for neurological disorders. However, they are currently held back by uncertain longevity following chronic exposure to body fluids. Conventional deposition techniques cover only the horizontal surfaces which contain active electronics, electrode sites, and conducting traces. As a result, a vast majority of today's silicon devices leave their vertical sidewalls exposed without protection. In this work, we investigated two batch-process silicon dioxide deposition methods separately and in combination: atomic layer deposition and inductively-coupled plasma chemical vapor deposition. We then utilized a rapid soak test involving potassium hydroxide to evaluate the coverage quality of each protection strategy. Focused ion beam cross sectioning, scanning electron microscopy, and 3D extrapolation enabled us to characterize and quantify the effectiveness of the deposition methods. Results showed that bare silicon sidewalls suffered the most dissolution whereas ALD silicon dioxide provided the best protection, demonstrating its effectiveness as a promising batch process technique to mitigate silicon sidewall corrosion in chronic applications.