/Towards a fully-implantable wireless neuro-modulation system

Towards a fully-implantable wireless neuro-modulation system

PhD - Leuven | More than two weeks ago

Enabling future chronic clinical neural interfaces

​The brain is the most complex organ in the human body and, to be able to understand how it works, large-scale in-vivo sensing of neuron populations has emerged as a key research technique. Microfabricated silicon neural probes have been established as the dominant technology in this field and have achieved ever increasing densities and numbers of simultaneous recording electrodes. Imec is the leader in the design and development of CMOS neural probes that achieve minimum probe-shank dimensions, high electrode density and large number of simultaneous recording channels with low-noise and low-power performances. However, these probes are not fully implantable and were not designed to enable clinical applications.

To enable fully-implantable neuro-modulation systems for chronic clinical applications, the following technological advances need to be achieved:

  • High-density neural probes that meet the leakage, safety and biocompatibility requirements for a clinical chronic implant
  • A wireless high-bandwidth data link able to transmit neural data from 1000’s of recording sites
  • Reliable and constant wireless power transmission from an external wearable device
  • A data hub that communicates and delivers power to multiple deep implants simultaneously
  • Biocompatible and hermetic packaging that meets FDA guidelines and regulations
  • Hermetically-sealed feedthrough flexible connectors for the neural probes

This PhD research will focus on the investigation of the technical and safety aspects of all the components described above to enable a fully-implantable wireless neuro-modulation system using imec technology. This is a hands-on research project where the PhD candidate will be asked to perform in depth experiments and validations to identify safety issues and device specifications. The candidate will also propose, develop and test a complete system, including an externally-wearable device and a subcutaneous implant, which will serve as a proof of concept for future developments. This will be done by integrating experimental chip technology currently under development within imec and exploring existing or new packaging techniques. The main challenges are to understand the needs of a clinical implant and translate those needs into feasible new concepts devised around existing imec technology. The findings from this research will be used to shape, tailor and optimize imec silicon technology towards this specific application. The proposed system will be characterized and validated in in-vitro and in-vivo settings through stablished collaborations with neuroscience labs.

Skills and background:

  • Strong affinity with hands-on experimental lab work
  • Experience with lab instrumentations such as function generators, oscilloscopes, etc.
  • Ability to devise creative solutions based on and going beyond the state of the art
  • System architecting skills – translating high level requirements into implementable system specifications
  • System design and implementation (including PCB design)
  • Knowledge of microcontrollers and embedded firmware design as well as programmable logic (FPGA)
  • Mechanical design and rapid prototyping techniques like 3D printing

Required background: Bioengineering, Electrical or Electronic Engineering

Type of work: 40% experimental, 30% design, 20% modeling/simulation, 10% literature

Supervisor: Chris Van Hoof

Daily advisor: Carolina Mora Lopez & Jan Putzeys

The reference code for this position is 2022-128. Mention this reference code on your application form.