Neural electrodes and associated electronics are powered either through percutaneous wires or transcutaneous powering schemes with energy harvesting devices implanted underneath the skin. For electrodes implanted in the spinal cord and the brain stem that experience large displacements, wireless powering may be an option to eliminate device failure by the breakage of wires and the tethering of forces on the electrodes. We tested the feasibility of using optically clear polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) as a waveguide to collect the light in a subcutaneous location and deliver to deeper regions inside the body, thereby replacing brittle metal wires tethered to the electrodes with PDMS-based optical waveguides that can transmit energy without being attached to the targeted electrode. We determined the attenuation of light along the PDMS waveguides as 0.36 ± 0.03 dB/cm and the transcutaneous light collection efficiency of cylindrical waveguides as 44% ± 11% by transmitting a laser beam through the thenar skin of human hands. We then implanted the waveguides in rats for a month to demonstrate the feasibility of optical transmission. The collection efficiency and longitudinal attenuation values reported here can help others design their own waveguides and make estimations of the waveguide cross-sectional area required to deliver sufficient power to a certain depth in tissue.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
- Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
- Biomedical Engineering
- Floating multielectrode arrays
- Spinal cord neuroprosthesis
- Transcutaneous wireless neural stimulation