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Breakthrough technology brings flexible implantable electronics one step closer to clinical application

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Flexible implantable electronics are one step closer to clinical application thanks to recent breakthroughs developed by a research team at Griffith University and UNSW Sydney.

The research was developed by Dr. Tuan Coa Nguyen, Professor Nam Trung Nguyen, and Dr. Hoang Phong Huang (currently Senior Lecturer at the University of New South Wales) from the Queensland Micro and Nanotechnology Center (QMNC) at Griffith University. . Silicon carbide technology as a new platform for long-term electronic-tissue interfacing.

The project was hosted by QMNC, which houses part of the Queensland Node of the Australian National Nanofabrication Facility (ANFF-Q).

ANFF-Q is a company set up under the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy to provide nano- and micro-fabrication facilities for Australian researchers.

QMNC has unique capabilities in the development and characterization of wide bandgap materials, a class of semiconductors with electronic properties that fall between non-conductive materials such as glass and semiconductor materials such as silicon used in computer chips. Offers.

These properties allow devices made from these materials to operate in extreme conditions such as high voltages, high temperatures, and corrosive environments.

QMNC and ANFF-Q provided this project with advanced characterization facilities for silicon carbide materials, scalable manufacturing capabilities, and robust micro/nano bioelectronic devices.

Implantable flexible devices have great potential to treat chronic diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and spinal cord injury.

These devices allow direct diagnosis of disorders of internal organs and provide appropriate treatment and treatment.

For example, such devices can provide electrical stimulation to targeted nerves to modulate abnormal impulses and restore bodily functions. ”

Dr. Tuan-Khoa Nguyen, Griffith University Queensland Micro and Nanotechnology Center (QMNC)

Maintaining long-term operation during implantation is a challenging task due to the need for direct contact with biological fluids.

The research team has developed a robust and functional materials system that can overcome this bottleneck.

“This system, which consists of a silicon carbide nanomembrane as the interface and silicon dioxide as a protective encapsulation, exhibits unparalleled stability and maintains its functionality in biological fluids,” says Nam. – Professor Trung Nguyen said.

“For the first time, our team has successfully developed a robust embedded electronic system with decades of expected lifespan.”

Researchers have demonstrated multiple modalities of impedance and temperature sensors, as well as neurostimulators and effective peripheral nerve stimulation in animal models.

Lead author Dr. Phan says implantable devices such as cardiac pace markers and deep brain stimulators have powerful capabilities for timely treatment of several chronic diseases.

“Conventional implants are bulky and have different mechanical stiffness than human tissue, which poses potential risks to patients. The development of mechanically soft but chemically strong electronic devices is critical to this long-standing problem. It’s a great solution,” said Dr. Huang.

The silicon carbide flexible electronics concept provides a promising avenue for neuroscience and neurostimulation therapy to provide life-saving treatments for chronic neurological disorders and accelerate patient recovery.

“We are fortunate to have strong interdisciplinary research teams from Griffith University, UNSW, University of Queensland and Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) – ERATO to bring this platform to life. electrical engineering, biomedical engineering,” Dr. Huang said.

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Journal reference:

Nguyen, TK. and others. (2022) Wide-bandgap semiconductor nanomembranes as long-term biointerfaces for flexible implantable neuromodulators. PNAS. doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2203287119.

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