Active medical implants are gaining increasing interest as smart supporting devices. One example is a pacemaker that monitors the patient’s heartbeat and only interferes when needed. However, electronics and the human body are not always best friends. When a device is implanted, the body’s immune system will react to it, often resulting in a thick layer of scar tissue surrounding the implant. Direct exposure to fluids will damage electronic components. But, at the same time, since the smart electronics are not biocompatible, the body needs to be protected from leaching of substances. Therefore, active implants require an encapsulation with a hermetic bi-directional diffusion barrier.
The conventional encapsulation/packaging technology based on titanium or glass package is bulky and results in a pronounced tissue reaction which may affect device functioning. A smaller, thinner and soft implant encapsulation technology has significant advantages. Because it allows for smaller devices, the implantation procedure will be much less invasive, and the tissue reaction will be less pronounced.
The combination of thin biocompatible polymer films and high-quality ceramic nanolayers proves to fulfil the hermeticity needs of long-term implantable medical devices. In a recent article, Maaike Op De Beeck, program manager biomedical microsystems, explains in detail how this encapsulation is fabricated and what rigorous testing it underwent. The technology was successfully applied to a flexible, thin neural probe, optimized for intra-fascicular nerve insertion.
Read the full article, previously published in Medtech, here.
Maaike Op de Beeck received the Engineering degree and the Ph.D. degree in electronics from the Catholic University of Leuven (KUL), Leuven, Belgium, in 1985 and 1993, respectively. She held several research positions at KUL, at Philips, Eindhoven, The Netherlands, at Mitsubishi Electric, Itami, Japan, and since 1992, she has been with IMEC, Leuven. During the first 20 years of her carrier, she specialized in advanced lithography. Since 2007, she has been active in the field of biomedical applications, with a focus on packaging of wearable and implantable devices. She is currently the Program Manager Biomedical microsystems in imec.
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