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Title: Fabrication and modeling of stretchable conductors for traumatic brain injury research
Authors: Cao, Wenzhe
Advisors: Wagner, Sigurd
Contributors: Electrical Engineering Department
Keywords: microfabrication
resistance modeling
shape memory polymer
stretchable electronics
tensile strain
traumatic brain injury
Subjects: Electrical engineering
Materials Science
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Stretchable electronics are an emergent class of electronics that can retain their electric functionality under large mechanical deformation, such as stretching, bending and compression. Like traditional electric circuits, stretchable electronics rely on electrical conductors, but in this specific instance the conductors must also be stretchable. This thesis research had three goals: (1) fabricate elastically stretchable conductors that retain their electrical conductance when stretched by tens of percent of strain; (2) understand the underlying stretching mechanism of gold conductors on polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) substrates; (3) produce a special device - a stretchable microelectrode array, which contains a matrix of stretchable conductors that enables a new approach to studying traumatic brain injury. We first developed and optimized the micro-fabrication process to make elastically stretchable thin gold film conductors on PDMS substrates. The conductors can retain electrical conduction while being stretched reversibly to 140% uniaxially and 16% radially. We further developed a fabrication process to encapsulate the conductors with either a commercially available photopatternable silicone (PPS) or with PDMS. 100 µm by 100 µm vias were patterned in the encapsulation layer to expose electrical contacts. PPS encapsulated conductors can be stretched uniaxially to 80%, and the PDMS encapsulated conductor can be stretched to ~15%, without losing electrical conduction. We also introduced acrylate-based shape memory polymers (SMPs) as a new type of substrate for stretchable conductors. Their stiffness can be tuned by varying the monomer composition or by changing the ambient temperature. Thin gold film conductors deposited on pre-strained SMPs remain conductive when first stretched and then relaxed to their pre-strain value. Moreover, an SMP can also serve as a stretchable carrier to make pre-strained conductors on an overlying PDMS membrane. The resistance of gold conductors made on pre-strained PDMS changes less during stretching than that made on non-pre-strained PDMS substrate. We built a model of the electrical resistance in function of strain. The model is based on the topography of the thin gold film on PDMS. This model is a first attempt at predicting electrical resistance of stretchable thin gold film conductors. Lastly, we fabricated stretchable microelectrode arrays (SMEAs). They were utilized at Columbia University to study traumatic brain injury (TBI). Tissues cultured on SMEA remained viable for 19 days, and the electrodes were able to both stimulate and record neural tissue activity before, during and after stretching. Therefore SMEAs are able to bring together mechanical injury, electrophysiological recording and pharmacological studies. The SMEAs could serve as <italic>in vitro</italic> platforms for high throughput therapeutic screening and discovery for traumatic injury. The ability to reproducibly fabricate stretchable conductors using micro-fabrication technology will facilitate adoption by industry. The ability to understand the stretching mechanism will enable us to design more robust material systems. The SMEA prototypes demonstrate that stretchable conductors are practical, and their mechanical compatibility with biological systems also makes them candidates for use in biomedical devices.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Electrical Engineering

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