The array technology developed by Normann et.al. two decades ago at the University of Utah is currently being manufactured and marketed to the neuroscience research community by Blackrock Microsystems (formerly known as Cyberkinetics, Inc., CKI). The Utah electrode array (UEA) is the only high- electrode density, penetrating microelectrode array that is FDA and CE approved, for human use. These arrays, both chronic and acute, have been shown to work very well in animal subjects and their commercial availability has met with considerable interest. The 'manufacturing'procedures that are used to fabricate the UEA at present are closely based on those that were used in their initial development in the laboratory, two decades ago. To date the fabrication of the UEA's has been carried out on a single array basis and as a result the manufacturing technique is not only time consuming but also labor intensive. Also, the existing fabrication costs including utilities, manpower, and maintenance are high. More importantly, the current processes used to fabricate the UEAs impose limitations in the tolerances of the electrode array geometry and electrical characteristics. Furthermore, the flat architecture of the UEA and convoluted geometry of the targeted tissue can result in poor coupling between the two "mating" surfaces, leading to active electrode tips that are not in proximity to the target neuronal tissue. Thus for an efficient neural interface and for wide experimental usage both in experimental and clinical applications, the existing UEA fabrication technique provides inadequate quality, repeatability, and throughput. There is a need to develop less costly but higher precision batch fabrication technology. In 2006, the University of Utah proposed and began work on optimizing existing processes, exploring new materials, designing new architecture of electrode array that are compliant with the host-tissue, and last but not the least developing wafer-scale based process flow for the UEA fabrication. The applicants of this application compose of such a team of engineers, scientists that have been working together over the past years on the technology development for the UEA. The goals of this application is to transfer the manufacturing technology developed at the University of Utah to Blackrock Microsystems, making the technology into a turnkey technology that can be disseminated to the neuroscience and clinical research community, by making the existing microelectrode arrays affordable, better, reliable, and customizable for both acute and chronic applications.
Relevance The new technology would allow us to fabricate neural multielectrode arrays with (a) uniformly shaped microelectrodes (b) small and uniformly exposed active tip sites (c) coated with an electrode material that can deliver high charge densities i.e. high charge injection capacity (CIC) (d) deposited with a highly robust encapsulation material for chronic applications and (e) convoluted electrode arrays for better geometrical match with the targeted tissue. Furthermore the technology would provide better quality, repeatability, and higher throughput of electrode arrays at lower cost of manufacturing and faster lead time. All these advantages would help in making the electrode arrays affordable and assessable to the neuroscience community.