A design of an implantable electronic device always takes into consideration the coating, as it is the only barrier that protects the gadget from fluids and from the natural immune responses of the body. Designing a protective coating for miniature electronics is an extremely difficult endevour. Nature reports on the marriage of nanotechnology and medical electronics:
The silicon chip retinal implant is being developed by Second Sight, a company based in Sylmar, California, along with a consortium of university researchers. The device needs a hermetic case to prevent it from reacting with fluids in the eye.
“It’s as if you’re throwing a television into the ocean and expecting it to work,” says the company’s president, Robert Greenberg. “The approach until now has been to lock it in a big waterproof can, but it’s very big and bulky,” he explains.
So researchers have developed an ultrananocrystalline diamond (UNCD) film that is guaranteed to be safe, long-lasting, electrically insulating and extremely tough. The coating can also be applied at low temperatures that do not melt the chip’s microscopic circuits.
The UNCD film is the first coating to meet all the necessary criteria for the implant, says Xingcheng Xiao, a materials scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, Illinois, who developed the film.
The tiny diamond grains that make up the film are about 5 millionths of a millimetre across. They grow from a mixture of methane, argon and hydrogen passing over the surface of the five-millimetre-square chip at about 400 C. Xiao and his colleagues have already tested the implants in rabbits’ eyes, and saw no adverse reaction after six months.
To read more about retinal implant by Second Sight, open the extended entry.
From the company’s website:
Second Sight is currently developing an implantable device that acquires power and data from external hardware and electrically stimulates the retina through an array of implanted electrodes. Simple arrays, used in short-term experiments, have produced formed vision in patients with Retinitis Pigmentosa. Further, research conducted by Second Sight has shown that more advanced array designs are possible, and that these arrays should significantly improve the quality of the images seen by patients.