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/Job opportunities/High-density, flexible and hermetic electronic implants for tomorrow’s healthcare solutions

High-density, flexible and hermetic electronic implants for tomorrow’s healthcare solutions

PhD - Gent | More than two weeks ago

Develop with us the future of medical electronics for long term implantation

The use of electronics in healthcare is a rapidly growing field. Better, faster, and smaller implants can dramatically change a patient’s treatment and thus life quality. Microchips are the ideal candidate to revolutionize healthcare, however, this promise also comes with a set of challenges. Chips are not made to withstand the harsh (wet) conditions of the inside of a living body for example. To overcome this, they must be coated and packaged with specialized materials. Moreover, all used materials should be compatible with the host (i.e. be biocompatible).

Since many years imec is developing electronic silicon-made probes with miniature high-density electrodes for recording the electrical activity of neural cells, in order to enable the medical world to get more insight in how the brain works, and to ultimately treat brain disorders. Chip-based medical devices enables  also a drastically decrease in the dimensions of the implant, which is of crucial importance since extreme miniaturization is key as it diminishes the tissue damage and foreign body response upon implantation.

Within a collaboration between CMST (an Imec-associated lab at the UGent university) and Imec in Leuven, a considerable amount of research is performed within our so called FITEP technology platform (FITEP: Flexible Implantable Thin Electronic Package) to develop an advanced implantable packaging technology, with as final goal a very small, flexible, biomimetic package for electronic implants. Due to the strong miniaturization and flexible character of the novel package, the technology would open important new possibilities to the medical world. First interesting results are obtained already by packaging a CMOS chip for neural implantation, as can be seen in Fig. 1. The FITEP-based device encapsulation consists of a multilayer of biocompatible polymers and ultrathin ceramic diffusion barriers based on nanotechnology. This PhD research project is focused towards still unexplored areas: the hermetic encapsulation of high density probes and the combination of the hermetic biocompatible encapsulation with CMOS based processing, which is typically using non-hermetic and non-biocompatible materials. Final goal is to develop the knowledge to enable the fabrication of high density probes with superior long term recording and stimulation functionality in a biocompatible hermetic encapsulation without damaging the electrode quality.



 

Fig 1. Electronic chip for neural implantation, fully packaged by CMST/imec’s ultrathin flexible hermetic encapsulation based on the FITEP technology platform. The total packaged chip is only 75nm thick, allowing for a minimum invasive implantation into the peripheral nerves, with minimal tissue damage and hence reduced scar tissue formation as important advantage. The electrodes for neural recording and stimulation are located on top of the chip. (This first FITEP demonstrator was realised during the IMPRESS project, which was sponsored by DARPA BTO under the auspices of Dr. D. Weber through SPAWAR, Pacific Grant/Contract No. N66001-15-C-4018 to the University of Florida.)


This research will be carried out mainly at CMST in Ghent supervised by the PhD promotor, but with a strong collaboration with imec in Leuven under supervision of the co-promotor. As such the PhD student can make optimal use of the available knowledge and infrastructure at both locations. The work consists of processing work in the CMST cleanroom in Ghent, as well as performing measurements in the related biolab and reliability lab. Obviously, general research planning and follow-up during the PhD project will be in consultation with both involved research teams at CMST and at imec.

 

For more information: see following publications

  • Op de Beeck Maaike et al., “Ultra-thin biocompatible implantable chip for bidirectional communication with peripheral nerves”, proceedings IEEE BIOCAS Conf., Oct. 2017, Torino, Italy; DOI: 10.1109/BIOCAS.2017.8325206
  • James J. Jun, et al., “Fully integrated silicon probes for high-density recording of neural activity”, Nature volume 551, pages 232–236 (09 November 2017) https://www.nature.com/articles/nature24636


Required background: Engineering technology, Engineering science, Biomedical engineering, Chemical engineering, or equivalent

Type of work: 60% experimental, 30% data analysis / interpretation, 10% theory/ literature study

Supervisor: Maaike Op de Beeck

Co-supervisor: Liesbet Lagae

Daily advisor: Maarten Cauwe, Dries Braeken

The reference code for this position is 2021-086. Mention this reference code on your application form.

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