Journal of neural engineering

A silicon carbide array for electrocorticography and peripheral nerve recording.

PMID 28573982


Current neural probes have a limited device lifetime of a few years. Their common failure mode is the degradation of insulating films and/or the delamination of the conductor-insulator interfaces. We sought to develop a technology that does not suffer from such limitations and would be suitable for chronic applications with very long device lifetimes. We developed a fabrication method that integrates polycrystalline conductive silicon carbide with insulating silicon carbide. The technology employs amorphous silicon carbide as the insulator and conductive silicon carbide at the recording sites, resulting in a seamless transition between doped and amorphous regions of the same material, eliminating heterogeneous interfaces prone to delamination. Silicon carbide has outstanding chemical stability, is biocompatible, is an excellent molecular barrier and is compatible with standard microfabrication processes. We have fabricated silicon carbide electrode arrays using our novel fabrication method. We conducted in vivo experiments in which electrocorticography recordings from the primary visual cortex of a rat were obtained and were of similar quality to those of polymer based electrocorticography arrays. The silicon carbide electrode arrays were also used as a cuff electrode wrapped around the sciatic nerve of a rat to record the nerve response to electrical stimulation. Finally, we demonstrated the outstanding long term stability of our insulating silicon carbide films through accelerated aging tests. Clinical translation in neural engineering has been slowed in part due to the poor long term performance of current probes. Silicon carbide devices are a promising technology that may accelerate this transition by enabling truly chronic applications.