Nanoengineering InP Quantum Dot-Based Photoactive Biointerfaces for Optical Control of Neurons

Front Neurosci. 2021 Jun 23;15:652608. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2021.652608. eCollection 2021.


Light-activated biointerfaces provide a non-genetic route for effective control of neural activity. InP quantum dots (QDs) have a high potential for such biomedical applications due to their uniquely tunable electronic properties, photostability, toxic-heavy-metal-free content, heterostructuring, and solution-processing ability. However, the effect of QD nanostructure and biointerface architecture on the photoelectrical cellular interfacing remained unexplored. Here, we unravel the control of the photoelectrical response of InP QD-based biointerfaces via nanoengineering from QD to device-level. At QD level, thin ZnS shell growth (∼0.65 nm) enhances the current level of biointerfaces over an order of magnitude with respect to only InP core QDs. At device-level, band alignment engineering allows for the bidirectional photoelectrochemical current generation, which enables light-induced temporally precise and rapidly reversible action potential generation and hyperpolarization on primary hippocampal neurons. Our findings show that nanoengineering QD-based biointerfaces hold great promise for next-generation neurostimulation devices.

Keywords: biointerface; indium phosphide; nanocrystal; nanoengineering; neural interface; neuromodulation; photostimulation; quantum dot.