Biomedical Microdevices

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 503-515

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Robust penetrating microelectrodes for neural interfaces realized by titanium micromachining

  • Patrick T. McCarthyAffiliated withSchool of Mechanical Engineering, Birck Nanotechnology Center, Purdue University
  • , Kevin J. OttoAffiliated withSchool of Biological Sciences and the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, Purdue University
  • , Masaru P. RaoAffiliated withSchool of Mechanical Engineering, Birck Nanotechnology Center, Purdue UniversityDepartment of Mechanical Engineering, University of California-Riverside Email author 


Neural prosthetic interfaces based upon penetrating microelectrode devices have broadened our understanding of the brain and have shown promise for restoring neurological functions lost to disease, stroke, or injury. However, the eventual viability of such devices for use in the treatment of neurological dysfunction may be ultimately constrained by the intrinsic brittleness of silicon, the material most commonly used for manufacture of penetrating microelectrodes. This brittleness creates predisposition for catastrophic fracture, which may adversely affect the reliability and safety of such devices, due to potential for fragmentation within the brain. Herein, we report the development of titanium-based penetrating microelectrodes that seek to address this potential future limitation. Titanium provides advantage relative to silicon due to its superior fracture toughness, which affords potential for creation of robust devices that are resistant to catastrophic failure. Realization of these devices is enabled by recently developed techniques which provide opportunity for fabrication of high-aspect-ratio micromechanical structures in bulk titanium substrates. Details are presented regarding the design, fabrication, mechanical testing, in vitro functional characterization, and preliminary in vivo testing of devices intended for acute recording in rat auditory cortex and thalamus, both independently and simultaneously.


MEMS Prosthesis Electrophysiology Recording Microstimulation Brain-machine