A new technology for capturing brain signals, based on an innovative elastic material composite has been developed at the Laboratory of Organic Electronics at Linköping University, Sweden.
The new elastic material composite is biocompatible and retains a high electrical conductivity even when stretched out to twice its original length. The breakthrough in capturing brain signals has been achieved through a collaboration with colleagues in Zürich and New York and is crucial for applications in biomedical engineering.
The study, published in the scientific journal Advanced Materials coupled electronic components and nerve cells. This coupling is both crucial to collect information about cell signalling and to treat neurological disorders, such as epilepsy.
Currently, the main challenge is to achieve long-term stable connections that do not damage neurons or tissue. Both the soft elastic tissue and the rigid electronic components have completely different mechanical properties.
Klas Tybrandt, leader of the soft electronics group at the Laboratory of Organic Electronics, said: “As human tissue is elastic and mobile, damage and inflammation arise at the interface with rigid electronic components. It not only causes damage to tissue; it also attenuates neural signals.”
New innovative technology
Tybrandt has developed a new conductive material that is as soft as human tissue. The material consists of gold coated titanium dioxide nanowires embedded into silicone rubber; it is biocompatible, meaning it can be in contact with the body without having any side effects.
Tyrabdt said: “The microfabrication of soft electrically conductive composites involves several challenges. We have developed a process to manufacture small electrodes that also preserves the biocompatibility of the materials. The process uses very little material, and this means that we can work with a relatively expensive material such as gold, without the cost becoming prohibitive.”
The breakthrough is the foundation of the research area Soft Electronics, currently being established at Linköping University.