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2009 Design of Medical Devices Conference Abstracts

# Creating Low-Impedance Coatings for Neural Recording Electrodes Using Electroplating InhibitorsOPEN ACCESS

[+] Author and Article Information
J. E. Ferguson

Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Minnesota

C. Boldt, A. D. Redish

Department of Neuroscience, University of Minnesota

J. Med. Devices 3(2), 027523 (Jul 08, 2009) (1 page) doi:10.1115/1.3147086 History: Published July 08, 2009

## Abstract

Microelectrodes are routinely used for recording from ensembles of neurons for clinical and neuroscience research applications. The quality of the neural recording is highly dependant on the electrical properties of the microelectrode. Lowering the impedance of the electrode-electrolyte interface can improve the signal-to-noise ratio and the ability of the microelectrode to record from more distant neurons. Therefore, tetrodes, which are made by twisting four 12.7 $μ$m nichrome wires together, are usually gold plated to lower impedances to 200–500 k$Ω$ (measured at 1 kHz) before implantation. A further reduction in impedance could drastically improve recording quality but is not possible with standard gold electroplating methods without causing crossed connections (shorts) between the wires. Keefer et al. (2008, Nature Nanotechnology) reported that they could reduce electrode impedance and improve neural recordings by adding multi-walled carbon nanotubes to the gold plating solution, producing a “rice-like” texture on electrode coatings. We replicated this coating and were able to lower tetrode impedances to 120–150 k$Ω$ without crossed connections. Furthermore, we found that by decreasing the electroplating current density and the concentration of multi-walled carbon nanotubes in the gold plating solution, we could create a 40–90 k$Ω$ coating on each tetrode wire without any crossed connections. A scanning electron microscope (SEM) image revealed this 40–90 k$Ω$ coating to be thick and globular with nano-scale texture, distinct from the “rice-like” coating of Keefer et al. The nano-scale texture coating had a large effective surface area likely responsible for the great reduction in impedance. In comparison, an SEM image of a standard gold-plated tetrode showed a thin coating with primarily lateral growth. The carbon nanotubes act as electroplating inhibitors by adsorbing onto the electrode surface and changing the dynamics of the gold electrocrystallization. We confirmed this by replacing the carbon nanotubes with polyethylene glycol (PEG), a known electroplating inhibitor, recreating the nano-scale texture and 40–90 k$Ω$ tetrode impedances. By varying the concentration of electroplating inhibitors and the electroplating current, the dynamics of gold electrocrystallization can be controlled. This gives the ability to design an electrode coating with a specific shape, thickness, and texture that can be tailored to a specific application. Creating a low-impedance coating with a nano-scale texture using electroplating inhibitors can improve the recording quality of microelectrodes and can allow for the use of smaller microelectrodes that were previously limited by their high impedance. Supported by a grant from the Institute for Engineering in Medicine (U Minnesota) and training grant support from T32-EB008389. Corresponding author; email: redish@umn.edu

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