Griffith University researchers have developed a new platform of long-lasting, flexible electronics for potential use in implantable devices such as deep brain stimulators and cardiac pacemakers.

The research group led by Dr Hoang Phuong Phan and Professor Nam-Trung Nguyen at the Queensland Micro and Nanotechnology Centre (QMNC) developed the nanometer thin, robust semiconducting material made from a compound of silicon and carbon.

“Implantable electronics are of great interest due to their ability for real-time and continuous recording of cellular-electrical activity. However, since these systems involve direct contacts with surrounding bio-liquid environments, maintaining their sustainable operation, without leakage currents or corrosion is challenging,’’ Dr Phan said.

“The excellent chemical inertness of our semiconductor allows its electronics and other integrated components to last for several decades in the human body.”

The material — Silicon Carbide (SiC) developed at the Phan Lab, is a compound of silicon and carbon, with strong chemical bonding properties, so it can tolerate the diffusion of ions from liquids as well as withstanding surface corrosion.

Using advanced micro-fabrication technologies at QMNC, Dr Phan and colleagues have developed an approach to transfer SiC membranes from the rigid silicon substate onto soft polymers.

The technique enables the formation of several SiC microstructures such as springs, serpentines, and spirals on a soft substrate, offering new functions of stretchability and flexibility to SiC-based electronic devices.

“The unique physical/chemical property of SiC as well as its scalable fabrication process is a promising pathway toward advanced versions of long-term implantable electronics for chronic neural and cardia electrophysiology.”

The team’s findings have been featured on the cover of Advanced Functional Materials. The current project is a collaboration with Professor John A. Rogers at Northwestern University in the US.