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Endeavors toward Novel Cochlear Implants from Stretchable Printed Circuit Board Technology
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Technology, Department of Engineering Sciences, Microsystems Technology.
2019 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (professional degree), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Profound sensorineural hearing loss is at the present time a major worldwide health concern, affecting over 5% of the worlds' population. Through cochlear implants (CI), treatment of sensorineural hearing loss now offers the possibility to restore hearing function through electrical stimulation of auditory nerves. Treatment is based on the surgical implantation of a thin, flexible array of microelectrodes into the cochlea. Nevertheless, availability of the treatment is limited due to high costs, and surgical insertion is associated with a high risk of trauma to the fragile soft tissue of the cochlea. At the heart of this thesis lies the proposition that these two problems may be addressed by the development of a novel type of cochlear implant founded on batch-producible, stretchable printed circuit board (PCB) technology.

As an alternative to conventional cochlear implant fabrication, this thesis presents a fabrication process based on batch-producible stretchable PCB, featuring liquid alloy microchannels in place of solid metallic wire conductors. A series of proof-of-concept prototypes were designed, fabricated and evaluated. According to results obtained from evaluation of the prototypes, certain steps in the fabrication process were later revisited and improved upon. Preliminary prototype fabrication yielded batches of thin flexible cone-shaped electrode arrays designed for in-vivo evaluation in guinea-pig cochleae. In-vitro evaluation in 3D-printed cochlea models revealed that the prototypes were sufficiently thin and compliant for insertion 23 mm deep into a human cochlea and 4-6 mm into a guinea-pig cochlea, comparable to commercially available counterparts.

Characterization of prototype test devices by optical microscopy, optical interferometry and resistance measurements revealed a high inherent variability in the developed fabrication process. In order to ensure consistently adequate quality, further improvement must be done. In particular, results of this work suggest that the deposition of liquid alloy involved in stretchable PCB fabrication should be automated to minimize uncertainty in the deposited liquid alloy thickness and thus enable further miniaturization of the stretchable PCB. Future efforts to successfully produce and integrate electrodes from soft materials, e.g. conductive polymer, liquid alloy or conductive hydrogels are highly recommended to further reduce implant stiffness.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019. , p. 53
Series
UPTEC F, ISSN 1401-5757 ; 19012
Keywords [en]
novel, cochlear, implant, electrode array, electrode, stretchable, soft, electronics, pdms, polydimethylsiloxane, liquid, alloy, galinstan, hearing aid
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-382489OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-382489DiVA, id: diva2:1307155
Educational program
Master Programme in Engineering Physics
Supervisors
Examiners
Available from: 2019-05-07 Created: 2019-04-25 Last updated: 2019-05-07Bibliographically approved

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