Flexible Electronic Implants Wrap Around Tissues

When heated, the devices can change shape and still maintain their electronic properties / UT Dallas
Janet Fang 13 May 2014, 22:26
 
Researchers have designed a new electronic device that becomes soft when implanted in the body. And this flexible, organic transistor is biologically adaptive, so once it’s in, it changes shape to grip tissues, nerves, or blood vessels -- rather than stay stiff like other implantable electronics with a plastic base.   
 
“Scientists and physicians have been trying to put electronics in the body for a while now, but one of the problems is that the stiffness of common electronics is not compatible with biological tissue,” Jonathan Reeder from the University of Texas at Dallas says in a news release. “You need the device to be stiff at room temperature so the surgeon can implant the device, but soft and flexible enough to wrap around 3-D objects so the body can behave exactly as it would without the device.”
 
By putting electronics on shape-changing and softening polymers, Reeder and a team led by Takao Someya from the University of Tokyo managed to do just that. Shape memory polymers respond to the environment in the body, becoming less rigid once implanted. And the electronic devices are comprised of layers of thin, flexible electronic foils. The team basically laminated and shaped the cured the shape of the polymers on top of the transistors, adapting from a technique used to create silicon electronics. 
 
In tests, the researchers used heat to “deploy” the device around a small cylinder about 2.25 millimeters in diameter. Once they were implanted into rats, the device complied with the living tissue while maintaining their electronic properties. The next step will be to shrink the devices and add more sensory components. 
 
Here’s a video of the electronics wrapping helically around a rod. 
 
 
The work was published online in Advanced Materials last month. 
 
[Via UT Dallas]
 
Image: UT Dallas 
 
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