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Mixed Ionic and electronic Transport In Conjugated polymers for bioelectronicS

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MITICS (Mixed Ionic and electronic Transport In Conjugated polymers for bioelectronicS)

Reporting period: 2021-02-01 to 2022-01-31

Brain computer interfaces (BCIs) is a modern technology that aims to improve quality of life and longevity, addressing the widespread effects of aging populations, including the growth of mental illness and neurological disorders, for example sclerosis, stroke, brain/spinal cord injury, muscular dystrophy. Therefore, BCIs represent a much promising technology for restoring function loss and are used for rehabilitation and entertainment/gaming.
However, the potential of BCIs is strongly hampered by the invasiveness vs. performance trade-off.
MITICS is developing a highly sensitive and biocompatible amplifying transducer platform for less invasive BCIs. We will leverage the Organic Electrochemical Transistor (OECT), a transducer that was recently shown to yield superior recordings of brain activity than electrodes, and dramatically improve its performance through the design of bespoke materials and coupling with high-gain, low-power amplifiers to achieve a paradigm shift in the invasiveness of BCIs. These highly sensitive amplifying transducers will be fabricated using printing processes which should allow custom designs and a strong decrease in fabrication costs. This breakthrough will allow BCIs to increase decoding accuracy and adoption, thus getting this technology out of the current blocking situation and to the general population and patients at scale.
In the first period of the project, the focus was put on the design, synthesis and characterization of novel functionalized one-dimensional linear conjugated polymers (generation 1) for OECT. The main idea was to evaluate whether a combination of glycol-type and ionic side chains within one single polymer provides benefits as compared to the standard fully glycolated polythiophenes or PT-based conjugated polyelectrolytes. A study of the doping/dedoping characteristics of the polymers has been performed using time-resolved spectro-electrochemistry on OECT devices.
In parallel, to guide the synthetic efforts with predictive material design rules, we have devised atomistic classical force fields from ab initio quantum-chemical calculations and run molecular mechanics (MM) and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations to locally explore the configurational space of thin swollen polymer layers immersed in electrolyte solutions. In particular, we have assessed how the motion of ions and water molecules is affected by the nature of the side chains.
The interplay between film morphology, ionic transport and electronic transport is fundamental for realizing the operation of OECTs, but poorly understood due to the lack of suitable microstructure characterization techniques. The objective of the 1st year was to address the structure-property relationship in OECTs and study the 3D microstructure of the active layer using a new visual mapping technique, Vapor Phase Infiltration (VPI).
The interfacing of living systems with modern microelectronics is an aspirational endeavour with wide impacts for healthcare. The full potential of organic materials in bioelectronics has not yet been achieved, because this is a fragmented field with limited work by chemists, physicists and material scientists that appeals to biologists and physicians. MITICS will provide a unique opportunity to bridge these worlds in addressing the shared, well-defined and timely goal of designing and integrating innovative transducer materials for OECT-based brain computer interfaces and their validation and benchmarking. Leaning on the results of this project, this new and essential source of information will have direct beneficial impact on our society, especially for our most fragile and dependent disabled people. One very important purpose of brain computer interface market is to help the people with special disabilities to communicate with others as well as external environments