Graduation Year

2009

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Electrical Engineering

Major Professor

Stephen E. Saddow, Ph.D.

Keywords

Cubic silicon carbide, Nanocrystalline diamond, Implantable neuronal prosthetics, Mammalian cell biocompatability, Neural action potential

Abstract

Damage to the central nervous system (CNS) leads to the generation of an immune response which culminates with the encapsulation of the damaged area. The encapsulation, known as a glial scar, essentially breaks neural signal pathways and blocks signal transmissions to and from the CNS. The effect is the loss of motor and sensory control for the damaged individual. One method that has been used successfully to treat this problem is the use of a brain-machine interface (BMI) which can intercept signals from the brain and use these signals to control a machine. Although there are many types of BMI devices, implantable devices show the greatest promise with the ability to target specific areas of the CNS, with reduced noise levels and faster signal interception, and the fact that they can also be used to send signals to neurons.

The largest problem that has plagued this type of BMI device is that the materials that have been used for their construction are not chemically resilient, elicit a negative biological response, or have difficulty functioning for extended periods of time in the harsh body environment. Many of these implantable devices experience catastrophic failure within weeks to months because of these negative factors. New materials must be examined to advance the future utilization of BMI devices to assist people with CNS damage or disease. We have proposed that two semiconductor materials, cubic silicon carbide (3C-SiC) and nanocrystalline diamond (NCD), which should provide solutions to the material biocompatibility problems experienced by implantable BMI devices.

We have shown in this study that these two materials show chemical resilience to neuronal cellular processes, and we show evidence which indicates that these materials possess good biocompatibility with neural cell lines that, in the worst case, is comparable to celltreated polystyrene and, in most cases, even surpasses polystyrene. We have utilized 3C-SiC within an electrode device and activated the action potential of differentiated PC12 cells. This work details our initial efforts to modify the surfaces of these materials in order to improve cellular interaction and biocompatibility, and we examine our current and future work on improving our implantable BMI devices.

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