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ERC

µTHALYS Report Summary

Project ID: 340931
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Belgium

Periodic Report Summary 3 - µTHALYS (Micro-Technologies and Heterogeneous Advanced Platforms for Implantable Medical Systems)

The summary should be a stand-alone description of the project and its outcomes. This text should be as concise as possible and suitable for dissemination to non specialist audiences. Please notice that this summary will be published.

In our ERC project ‘µThalys’, we are researching future concepts for electronic medical implants. The main idea is to seek to replace current implants, that typically consist of a titanium casing with electronics and a few lead wires, with less intrusive, softer, tissue-like implants. Future generation implants would consist of soft, modular, miniature transducer nodes that can act stand-alone, or be connected in a network, thus forming e.g. an implantable sensor network.

To push the state-of-the-art in the direction described above, we are working on micrometer scale fabrication technologies for components of future implants, on packaging and assembly technologies and on demonstrator devices. The demonstrators are being developed in close coordination with research groups in the university hospital, in order to assure impact on the medical field.

In terms of fabrication technologies, we have found a new way of fabricating stretchable interconnects based on metal-coated carbon fibers coated with biocompatible polymers (plastics), which eliminates fatigue seen in more traditional metal-based approaches. We have also worked on adding processes to deposit porous materials (for improved electrodes and tissue adhesion) to wafer-scale fabricated devices. Also, work was done on wafer-scale fabrication of flexible substrates and implants. We have found new porous electrode materials and methods for improving insulation lifetime in vivo. The integration of drug releasing gels in the flex technology has been researched to release chemicals that improve the acceptance of neural implants by the brain.

In additional packaging research, functional molecules have been coated in the new polymer materials to improve the compatibility with blood, i.e. to refrain coagulation of the blood when exposed to these ‘foreign’ materials as implants.

At this point, several devices based on the technologies described and envisaged in the work plan are in the works, and some of the first designs have already been assembled and demonstrated. As an example, we have demonstrated in vivo a first-of-its-kind pressure sensor capsules for use in autonomous bladder pressure sensing, featuring wireless power and data transfer. Wired sensor nodes containing microelectrodes for EMG sensing and other nodes containing pressure sensors and accelerometers for mechanical sensing around muscles and organs such as the bladder have been demonstrated as single units.

Several neural electrode arrays based on the flexible interconnect technology worked on in the project have been fabricated and tested, including a unique unfolding version intended for deep brain stimulation in lesion cavities. A first version of a multinode implantable transducer network, which combines several of the technologies demonstrated to be functional as a single unit, is also ready for testing at this point.

Contact

Wannes HEIRBAUT
Tel.: +32 16 376931
Fax: +32 16 326515
E-mail
Record Number: 199486 / Last updated on: 2017-06-21
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