At the Institute of Bioelectronics (PGI-8/ICS-8) at the Foschungszentrum Jülich, physicists, chemists, biologists, and engineers perform joint research on the scientific principles of the functional link between biological components and electronic components. This collaboration has led to the development of platforms for microfluidics, micro- and nano-patterning, and electronic biosensors. These technologies are not only developed to understand biological processes, but also pave the way for their application in sensor technology and diagnostics. With the advertised position we are planning to strengthen our research efforts to improve extracellular recording methods and develop future implant devices.
The main objective of the master’s thesis project is to inkjet print a ceramic neural electrode coating through sol-gel synthesis, as the use of neural electrodes allows for insights into brain function. Without an electrode coating, inflammatory responses by host tissue to inserted electrodes often inhibit electrode function. Additionally, neural electrode coatings can improve the electrical properties of such electrodes. Specifically, recent work has shown that aminosilane-functionalized silica, where silica has been shown to improve electrical properties of neural electrodes, encourages the growth of neurons while limiting the growth of astrocytes and thereby reducing host response. Building off of this work, the goal of the project is to create an inkjet printable version of the coating, which would allow for accurate deposition on the micron scale. Cell culture of neurons and astrocytes on the printed material, followed by immunostaining, would then be used to determine whether the coating is suitable for neural electrodes. Within the project, the master’s student is expected to formulate a sol-gel based neural electrode coating for inkjet printing, analyze neuron and astrocyte growth behavior on the printed coating, and perform electrochemical and physiological measurements with the coating.