Disorders of the nervous system pose an enormous burden on affected individuals and health care systems throughout Europe, which calls for the development of novel diagnostics, treatments and cures. A key approach in diagnostic and therapeutic applications in the clinic involves direct physical interfacing with the brain in order to take electrical measurements and to modulate brain activity for neuro‑prosthetic function. Currently, approved clinical devices have limited precision for both recording and stimulation, in large part due to their relatively low number of electrical channels for interaction with neural tissue. However, more precise interfacing promises to dramatically improve diagnosis and treatment, to reduce side effects and to enable entirely new treatments for hitherto unmet clinical needs.
Small devices with a large channel counts for electrical recording and stimulation of neural tissue have been realized using CMOS-based (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) silicon technologies. However, many preclinical and clinical applications are not compatible with silicon-based neural probes because of their restricted 2D geometry along a single axis and their stiffness, which prevents use on curved surfaces. Finally, the translation of silicon-based neural devices into clinical practice has had limited success, in part because of concerns regarding long-term reliability, biocompatibility and tissue compliance.
The purpose of this PhD is to develop a platform for a new class of flexible electrical interfaces for high density neural recoding and stimulation. The mechanical flexibility of such devices promises to improve the biocompatibility, tissue compliance and long-term reliability. These features will facilitate translation of this new technology into clinical products. Specifically, the deliverable of this PhD are:
- Translation of thin film transistor technology into low noise transistors suitable to build amplifiers with sufficiently low noise to record small extracellular signals (50 µV to 150 µV).
- Design, fabrication and characterization of a low noise amplifier using the flexible electronics platform.
- Design, fabrication and characterization of a flexible electrode array prototype.
- Design and manufacturing of the electronic system that will provide control and interface to the flexible electrode array prototype.
We are looking for a PhD candidate that above all is an enthusiastic self-driven person, that enjoys learning, and that proposes creative solutions to complicated problems while working in a multidisciplinary team. Ideally, we would like a candidate with knowledge of semiconductor physics and devices, and/or analog electronics design. Knowledge in electronics hardware design and software development design is a plus.
Type of work:
10% literature study, 5% modeling, 25% electronic design, 25% hardware design, 20% experimental setup design and testing of devices, 5% computer interface development.
Supervisor: Sebastian Haesler
Daily advisor: Soeren Steudel and Luis Hoffman
When you apply for this PhD project, mention the following reference code in the imec application form: ref. SE 1704-15.