ELECTRODE concepts Our engineering and R&D teams are pursuing many electrode development projects, expanding the boundaries of neuroscience research as well as prospects for patient treatment.

Blackrock electrode concept capabilities

At the home of the Utah Array, we pride ourselves on innovation in electrodes for electrophysiology. At any given time, our engineering and R&D teams are pursuing many electrode development projects, all of them expanding the boundaries of neuroscience research—all ultimately exploring prospects for patient treatment. The following are but a few examples of Blackrock electrode design projects underway. Please contact us to explore further concepts and possibilities.

Blackrock ECoG Array

The Blackrock ECoG Array is a foil electrode for invasive neuromonitoring that enables recording and stimulation of brain activity on the cortical surface. Applications for such electrodes include research and diagnostics for surgical treatment of epilepsy and brain tumors.

Blackrock ECoG Arrays are exceptionally soft and adaptable, up to 50-percent thinner than comparable products, and require fewer cables. Our ECoG Arrays also are very safe, since they have a smooth surface with ultra-low-profile contacts.

Available with micro-contacts in various sizes, shapes and densities, Blackrock ECoG Arrays provide researchers exceptional flexibility. Recording is highly precise in support of high-quality diagnostics and research data.

ECoG Array features & benefits

  • Extensive range of grid and strip electrodes

  • Soft, thin and adaptable foil

  • Variable contact sizes from 0.3 mm to 2.7 mm

  • Material interlocking yields secured contacts

  • Small number of cables

  • Sterile accessories for connection to neuromonitoring systems

Utah Multisite Electrode Array (UMEA)

UMEA is our most ambitious project and will offer researchers unprecedented access to the human brain. This array offers high channel density (56.25 sites/mm2) along with:

  • Nine times more channels than the Utah Array

  • Channels at the tip and along and around the shafts

  • The same footprint as of the Utah Array

UMEA also will offer the benefits of enabling large volumes and different layers of the human brain to be mapped without altering the Utah Array’s small footprint.

Flexible or floating arrays

We are working on a project to make the Utah Array so flexible as to float. To achieve this, instead of using glass to isolate each shaft of the Utah Array, we apply polymer or biodegradable material. Once implanted, it will dissolve and render the Utah Array floating. A flexible or floating Utah Array will be able to move with the brain tissue, mitigating tissue damage and in turn increasing array longevity in chronic applications.

Tip modification

A small geometrical area of active sites on an electrode improves spatial resolution and selectivity. As such, we are generating large, real-surface area by porousifying the electrode tip without increasing active-site geometrical surface area. The modified electrode surface’s platinum-coated tip yields a charge-injection capacity (CIC) of 0.42 mC/cm2—133% higher than unmodified platinum-coated electrodes and 740% higher than the typical platinum CIC (0.05 mC/cm2). These arrays retain the properties of highly robust platinum material with increased charge-transfer properties.

Double encapsulation (Alumina–Parylene-C)

Some studies have indicated that Parylene-C, a biocompatible material, may not be suitable for chronic use. Accordingly, a double layer of ALD Alumina and Parylene-C is proposed as the encapsulation layer. Once deposited, the Alumina (ALD, Al2O3) atomic layer works as an inner moisture barrier. Parylene-C in turn provides an external barrier to ions, prevents contact of alumina with liquid water and inhibits corrosion. Initial results show that arrays coated with a double encapsulation of Alumina and Parylene-C last at least three times longer than arrays coated with only Parylene-C at 80º C. Double encapsulation also will help increase the longevity of the neural electrodes.

Flexible polymer-based, thin-film electrodes

In these new thin-film-based grids and flexible electrodes, the substrate material is Parylene-C or Polyimide, while the electrode material is platinum or iridium oxide. An active connector such as CerePlex™ I, or a passive one such as the Omnetics System, facilitates system integration.

Blackrock custom probes

Blackrock probes were specifically designed not only to enable researchers to reach deeper structures, but to provide greater utility and ease of use once there. Laminar recording through multiple contact points allows users to tease apart different inputs and outputs from that particular part of the brain. Configurations are available that include either 16 or 32 channels with a high degree of customization with respect to:

  • Number, length, thickness and width of shanks

  • Dual-sided electrodes (sites on both sides of shaft)

  • Electrode site area, spacing and material

  • Site configuration (e.g., tetrode/stereotrode/octrode)

  • 3D arrays

Grants and collaborations

Blackrock actively seeks and welcomes collaborators for research projects and joint grant proposal writing. We have history of successful proposal writing as evidenced by six SBIRs and R01s funded by the NIH and NSF in the last five years. Our areas of interest include:

  • Advanced electrode design—surface or penetrating, CNS or PNS and large channel

  • Ephys system integration

  • Neuroscience research electronics

  • Neural-signal and behavioral-analysis software

Our research environment includes a fully equipped, state-of-the-art cleanroom at our Salt Lake City headquarters. Some of the leading electrical and mechanical engineers and bioengineers in America work here under one roof. Moreover, they have access to the advanced Nanofab Cleanroom Facility and Surface Science Laboratory at the University of Utah. Add to this our quality control and regulatory experience, which is vital for shepherding new technologies and products into real-world applications and markets, and you will find Blackrock to be a highly effective research and development partner as well as a true team player. For further information, please contact partners@blackrockmicro.com.

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