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Researchers Use Lasers to Cheaply, Easily Fabricate Bioelectronics

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CHICAGO, Sept. 8, 2020 — Researchers from the University of Chicago have found an easy, inexpensive, and scalable method for fabricating bioelectronics components using lasers. The technology has potential for use in medical applications, such as in pacemakers.

The process begins with a compound called polydimethylsiloxane, or PDMS, which is a type of elastomer — a very elastic, stretchable material. Using an inexpensive commercial laser cutter, the researchers transformed the PDMS into a dense silicon carbide layer, a material useful for electronics and, particularly, bioelectronics.

Previously, the components had to be synthesized separately and then molded together. This process allows sections of the soft PDMS to be turned directly into silicon carbide through precise laser engraving to create seamless integration.

The soft component enables attachment to soft and deformable cells. The silicon carbide component supports electronics without degrading within the body. Given the need for precision, laser fabrication is a practical technique for this application.

To test the new material, the researchers crafted a miniature pacemaker. The composite was placed on a rat heart, to which the team applied electrical signals. The heart rate synchronized immediately to that of the device.

Other potential uses include those to make scientific measurements, or even the stimulation of arterial smooth muscle cells. Through the light triggered the creation of chemicals, such as hydrogen peroxide, a bioelectronic device could signal to nearby cells, thereby creating a targeted response and potentially supporting control over the contraction and relaxation cycles of muscle cells. The devices also have the potential for use in “remote-controlling” arteries during surgeries and treating the muscles of patients with spinal cord injuries.

The research was published in Science Advances (
Sep 2020
Research & TechnologymaterialsBiophotonicspacemakerbioelectronicsmanufacturinglasersfabricationsilicon carbideheartUniversity of ChicagopolydimethylsiloxanePDMS

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