Diamond devices for bioelectronic applications - invited resubmission

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: London Centre for Nanotechnology


The interfacing between modern microelectronic device sensors and living organisms is a growing field, in which the electronic signals produced are used to provide information concerning the chemical and electrical processes occurring in the organisms concerned. Applications arise in the fields of biology and medicine, and in industries such as the biotechnology and food industries. An interesting field at present is neuron interfacing. Neurons are cells of the nervous system - the human brain has around 100 billion neurons - which carry messages through an electrochemical process. The behaviour of neurons can be followed by detecting electrical signals arising when a neuron sends a signal, or by chemical detection of neurotransmitters, which are specific chemicals that transmit information between one neuron and the next. Neuron interfacing requires intimate contact between the biological media and electronic or electrochemical devices, which typically might be silicon-based electronic devices or graphitic carbon/metal electrodes or electrode arrays. Progress in the research has been limited, either because the monitoring devices do not possess sufficient sensitivity, are hostile to the cultured cells, or undergo chemical change and significant degradation in the biological media. It is also the case that the traditional devices tend to carry out one function only, such as measurement of action potential. Ideally the devices should be able to stimulate the cells and control the chemical environment on the nanoscale at the device-culture interface, whilst monitoring the release of neurotransmitters and action potentials. Recently synthetic diamond, formed by the low pressure reactions of hydrocarbons and hydrogen in an energised plasma state at a solid surface, has become available at an economic price, with properties similar or surpassing those of natural diamond. The material can be prepared in an electrically insulating, semi-conducting or metallic state, depending on the exact growth conditions employed, and is ideally suited for electronic and electrochemical applications in harsh environments, in part because of the very high chemical stability of diamond. The properties of this new material make it ideal for exploitation in the field of neuron interfacing, and it should be possible to formulate multifunctional devices, which exploit both the electronic and electrochemical properties of diamond, and which yield more reliable and sensitive signals than the present devices.Although the biocompatibility of thin film diamond has been identified previously attempts to exploit it have mainly been concerned with passive applications, such as a wear- or chemically- resistant barriers. Here we will explore the potential of using diamond to fabricate active multifunctional sensors for neuronal applications. The project will involve growing the special forms of thin film diamond needed for the project, making FET and electrochemical sensors from it, culturing neuronal cells at the interface between the diamond and the biological media, and testing these biolectronic devices in the measurement of action potential and neurotransmitter release.To do this, we have assembled a multidisciplinary team comprising expertise in diamond electronic engineering, diamond electrochemistry and neuronal cell biology. If promising results are obtained, the project will pave the way for developing applications which could clearly have a huge impact in biomedical technology.


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Description We have developed a family of diamond-based devices for brain-machine interfacing applications
Exploitation Route EU project known as 'NEUROCARE' and collaboration with the Paris Vision Institute to make retinal implants
Sectors Healthcare,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

Description Currently in (confidential) discussions regarding a spin out company to exploit this work
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Electronics,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology
Description Direct Industrial funding (Photonis SAS)
Amount £74,000 (GBP)
Organisation Photonis SAS 
Sector Private
Country France
Start 01/2011 
End 12/2014
Description EU FW7
Amount € 480,000 (EUR)
Funding ID FP7-NMP-2011-SMALL-5 Project 280433 NEUROCARE 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 04/2012 
End 04/2015
Description Q-NEURO: Diamond Quantum Technology for the Investigation of Neurological disease
Amount £282,470 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/R034699/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 07/2020
Description CEA - Atomic Energy Commission 
Organisation Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA)
Country France 
Sector Public 
Start Year 2005
Description Photonis diamond devices 
Organisation Photonis SAS
Country France 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Deign work; materials science; device fabrication; diamond growth
Collaborator Contribution Design work; in-house test facilities; diamond materials and substrates
Impact One PhD thesis; two publications; 4 patents
Start Year 2011
Company Name Corite Technology Ltd 
Description A spin-out from the PIs research team with 4 of the PIs team members to exploit diamond sensor technology 
Year Established 2017 
Impact Start up