Control of neural probe shank flexibility by fluidic pressure in embedded microchannel using PDMS/PI hybrid substrate

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Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0220258
Journal / PublicationPLoS ONE
Issue number7
Online published24 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019



Implantable neural probes are widely used to record and stimulate neural activities. These probes should be stiff enough for insertion. However, it should also be flexible to minimize tissue damage after insertion. Therefore, having dynamic control of the neural probe shank flexibility will be useful. For the first time, we have successfully fabricated flexible neural probes with embedded microfluidic channels for dynamic control of neural probe stiffness by controlling fluidic pressure in the channels. The present hybrid neural probes consisted of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) and polyimide (PI) layers could provide the required stiffness for insertion and flexibility during operation. The PDMS channels were fabricated by reversal imprint using a silicon mold and bonded to a PI layer to form the embedded channels in the neural probe. The probe shape was patterned using an oxygen plasma generated by an inductively coupled plasma etching system. The critical buckling force of PDMS/PI neural probes could be tuned from 0.25-1.25 mN depending on the applied fluidic pressure in the microchannels and these probes were successfully inserted into a 0.6% agarose gel that mimicked the stiffness of the brain tissue. Polymer-based neural probes are typically more flexible than conventional metal wire-based probes, and they could potentially provide less tissue damage after implantation.

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