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An all-diamond, hermetic electrical feedthrough array for a retinal prosthesis

Ganesan, Kumaravelu, Garrett, David J., Ahnood, Arman, Shivdasani, Mohit N., Tong, Wei, Turnley, Ann M., Fox, Kate, Meffin, Hamish, Prawer, Steven
Biomaterials 2014 v.35 no.3 pp. 908-915
brain, electrochemistry, electrodes, electronic chips, fearfulness, helium, humans, nanocrystals, nitrogen, peripheral nerves, prostheses, vision
The interface between medical implants and the human nervous system is rapidly becoming more and more complex. This rise in complexity is driving the need for increasing numbers of densely packed electrical feedthrough to carry signals to and from implanted devices. This is particularly crucial in the field of neural prosthesis where high resolution stimulating or recording arrays near peripheral nerves or in the brain could dramatically improve the performance of these devices. Here we describe a flexible strategy for implementing high density, high count arrays of hermetic electrical feedthroughs by forming conducting nitrogen doped nanocrystalline diamond channels within an insulating polycrystalline diamond substrate. A unique feature of these arrays is that the feedthroughs can themselves be used as stimulating electrodes for neural tissue. Our particular application is such a feedthrough, designed as a component of a retinal implant to restore vision to the blind. The hermeticity of the feedthroughs means that the array can also form part of an implantable capsule which can interface directly with internal electronic chips. The hermeticity of the array is demonstrated by helium leak tests and electrical and electrochemical characterisation of the feedthroughs is described. The nitrogen doped nanocrystalline diamond forming the electrical feedthroughs is shown to be non-cyctotoxic. New fabrication strategies, such as the one described here, combined with the exceptional biostability of diamond can be exploited to generate a range of biomedical implants that last for the lifetime of the user without fear of degradation.