SUBJECT: Ph.D. Proposal Presentation
BY: Scott Thourson
TIME: Tuesday, May 17, 2016, 10:00 a.m.
PLACE: MoSE, 1224
TITLE: Conductive Polymer Nanowires for Single Cell Electrical Stimulation
COMMITTEE: Dr. Christine K. Payne, Co-Chair (CHEM)
Dr. Craig R. Forest, Co-Chair (ME)
Dr. Todd A. Sulchek (ME)
Dr. Maysam Ghovanloo (ECE)
Dr. Garrett B. Stanley (BME)


The interface between electrical devices and biological systems mediates the interaction between the human body and modern technology. Biomedical applications include neural recording, deep brain stimulation, bionic implants, pacemakers, cochlear implants, artificial vision, biological assembly, and regenerative medicine. There is currently no feasible method to interact with multiple neurons in the human brain simultaneously and selectively. Emerging technology aims to scale down electrodes into microelectrode arrays to improve current capabilities. However, this approach greatly reduces surface area and leads to relatively low charge injection, thus making microelectrodes inefficient for selective single cell stimulation in vivo. Furthermore, conventional fabrication methods for microelectrode arrays produce stiff electrodes that induce tissue damage from post-implantation micromotion.

We propose the use of conductive polymer nanowires as an alternative interfacial material for electrical stimulation at the single cell level. Conductive polymers have excellent potential to mediate bioelectrical communication due to their high-conductivity, large charge injection, mechanical flexibility, and biocompatibility. These material properties are further enhanced when polymers are grown as high-aspect ratio nanowires. It is hypothesized that these polymer nanowires can provide a more flexible means for single cell electrical stimulation. It is expected that nanowire electrodes will lower interfacial electrical impedance, minimize voltage-induced tissue damage, improve biocompatibility, and extend chronic stability for future in vivo applications.