Date(s) - 09/18/2014
This dissertation focuses on how the physical and electrical properties of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and carbonized nanofibers (CNFs) affect the physiological and electrophysiological properties of neurons and neural networks and how this may affect the efficacy of these nanomaterials as microelectrode materials. In general, the pursuit of increasing electrode sensitivity while maintaining low noise levels is addressed by investigating and utilizing novel electrode materials. Carbon nanomaterials have a native conductivity and nano-scale roughness that should decrease microelectrode noise levels and impedance by virtue of a substantially increased surface area. In addition to the beneficial microelectrode properties, these carbon nanomaterials could increase the integration of the electrode to the neural tissue.
The work here is an investigation of how selected CNT and CNF materials affect the viability, outgrowth, and adhesion of cortical neurons in vitro and how the physical and chemical properties of each substrate correlates to these measurements. The intent is that properties detailed in vitro can be assumed to extrapolate to performance in vivo assuming the same materials are utilized for invasive, implanted microelectrodes.
Carbon nanotubes were deposited by a layer-by-layer (LBL) method with poly(ethylenimine) (PEI). Carbon nanofiber substrates were prepared in conjunction with collaborators via electrospinning a photosensitive polymer (SU-8), photopatterning, and pyrolyzing the depositions. In addition to these substrates, control samples were prepared in the form of PEI-treated glass coverslips, carbonized thin films, SU-8 thin films, and SU-8 nanofibers. The primary variable between all of these substrates is the roughness or topography of each deposition (ranging from 0.26 nm to 160 nm average roughness).
Physical and chemical characteristics of the depositions are presented in addition to the electrical characteristics which make them attractive as microelectrode materials. The interaction between neurons and these substrates is investigated by attempting to characterize neural integration by way of tracking cellular outgrowth and adhesion strength.
Lastly, how carbon nanotubes and carbon nanofibers can improve upon commercial in vitro microelectrode arrays is presented. Custom carbon nanofiber pillars as microelectrodes, coupled with a layer of SU-8 as an insulator, were manufactured as in vitro microelectrode arrays for neural network recordings.