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Home RBCS ■ Soft Materials Design

Soft Materials Design

The Soft Materials Design Laboratory (SMDLab) is a multidisciplinary environment devoted to the applications of novel materials in the RBCS framework. The main activities include the development of novel microelectrodes for neural physiology (neural recording and stimulation/brain machine interface), high surface area electrochemical interfaces, polymeric low voltage actuators, soft sensors, flexible and stretchable conductors.

Research Topics :

  • Nanocomposite High Surface Area Coatings
    alt
    We develop electrochemical co-deposition techniques of high surface area coatings to decrease neural microelectrode impedance while increasing their charge transfer capability.
  • Epicortical microelectrode arrays
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    We developed a family of micro-electrocorticography (ECoG), based on flexible printed circuit (FPC) technology, tailoring the designs according to the different neurophysiological experiments.
  • In-situ grown carbon nanotubes interfaces
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    We locally synthetize carbon nanotubes on both oxides (amorphous silica, alumina) and metals (platinum, tungsten) defining the growth areas by locally depositing the catalyst.

  • Intracortical microelectrodes
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    We develop novel intracortical microelectrodes by coating metallic electrodes for intracortical recording with a variety of different high surface area coatings.
  • Stretchable electrodes
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    We are developing new methods to obtain stretchable metallic conductors on elastomeric substrates that are able to withstand high elongations

  • Neural microelectrode characterization
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    We test electrochemical performance, mechanical stability, shelf life and in vivo recording ability of high surface area coated epi- and intra-cortical microelectrodes.
  • Novel Materials for Soft Actuation
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    By modifying the mechanical and electrical properties of the electrode materials, we are able to improve the performance of low voltage soft actuators.

  • Soft Actuators
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    We develop low voltage soft actuators based on novel materials integrating in the same vision both electrical and mechanical design and the development of novel optimized materials.

EXTERNAL PROJECTS:

EUROPEAN SCIENTIFIC NETWORK FOR ARTIFICIAL MUSCLES

Members of the European Scientific Network for Artificial Muscles (ESNAM)
(COST Action MP1003)

 

NANOATTUATORI PLASTICI E LEGGERI PER DISPOSITIVI BIOMEDICALI

Ministero degli Affari Esteri: progetto bilaterale  di “Grande Rilevanza ITALIA/GIAPPONE”: Nanoattuatori plastici e leggeri per dispositivi biomedicali in collaborazione con l’AIST Health Research Institute – Osaka           

BLINDPAD

The objective of the project is to make graphical contents accessible through touch by building and field-testing a Personal Assistive Device for BLIND and visually impaired people (BLINDPAD).

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS:


  • *Castagnola E., *Ansaldo A., *Maggiolini E., *Angotzi G. N., Skrap M., *Ricci D. and *Fadiga L. (2013)
    Biologically Compatible Neural Interface to Safely Couple Nanocoated Electrodes to the Surface of the Brain
    ACS Nano, vol. 7, (no. 5), pp. 3887-3895, 1936-0851
  • *Ansaldo A., *Castagnola E., *Maggiolini E., *Fadiga L. and *Ricci D. (2011)
    Superior Electrochemical Performance of Carbon Nanotubes Directly Grown on Sharp Microelectrodes
    ACS Nano, vol. 5, (no. 3), pp. 2206-2214, 1936-0851
  • *Biso M., *Ansaldo A., Picardo E. and *Ricci D. (2012)
    Increasing the maximum strain and efficiency of bucky gel actuators by pyrrole oxidative polymerization on carbon nanotubes dispersed in an ionic liquid
    Carbon, vol. 50, (no. 12), pp. 4506-4511, 0008-6223
  • *Lanzarini E., *Antognazza M. R., *Biso M., *Ansaldo A., *Laudato L., *Bruno P., *Metrangolo P., *Resnati G., *Ricci D. and *Lanzani G. (2012)
    Polymer-Based Photocatalytic Hydrogen Generation
    Journal of Physical Chemistry C, vol. 116, (no. 20), pp. 10944-10949, 1932-7447
  • Ceseracciu, L.; Biso, M.; Ansaldo, A.; Futaba, D.N.; Hata, K.; Barone, A.C.; Ricci, D.
    Mechanics and actuation properties of bucky gel-based electroactive polymers
    Sensors and Actuators B: chemical, 156, 949-953 (2011)
  • Baranauskas, G.; Maggiolini, E.;Castagnola, E.; Ansaldo, A.; Mazzoni, A.; Angotzi, G.N.; Vato, A.; Ricci, D.; Panzeri S.; Fadiga, L.
    Carbon nanotube composite coating of neural microelectrodes preferentially improves the multiunit signal-to-noise ratio
    Journal of Neural Engineering 066013 (2011)
alt Nanocomposite High Surface Area Coatings
  • Nanotechnology
  • MicroElectrodes
  • Interface
  • Electrochemistry
People involved:

Elisa Castagnola Alberto Ansaldo Davide Ricci Luciano Fadiga

We developed electrochemical techniques for the co-deposition of high surface area nanocomposite coatings in order to enhance both recording and electrical stimulation properties of neural microelectrodes by decreasing their impedance and increasing their charge transfer capability. In electrochemical processes CNTs mainly act as inhibitors of the electrochemical deposition and, being encased in the composites, do not expose their surface to the neural tissue.
In particular we use the following high surface area coatings :

  • Conductive polymer (PPy, PEDOT) - CNT
  • Gold-CNT
  • Other kinds of nanostructured gold

Scanning electron micrographs of the surface of (a) gold-CNT and (b) PEDOT-CNT nanocomposites electrodeposited on the surface of gold- epicortical microelectrodes and (c) gold-CNT and (d) PEDOT-CNT nanocomposites electrodeposited on the surface of platinum intracortical microelectrodes

*Ansaldo A., *Castagnola E., *Maggiolini E., *Fadiga L. and *Ricci D. (2011)
Superior Electrochemical Performance of Carbon Nanotubes Directly Grown on Sharp Microelectrodes
ACS Nano, vol. 5, (no. 3), pp. 2206-2214, 1936-0851

Baranauskas, G.; Maggiolini, E.;Castagnola, E.; Ansaldo, A.; Mazzoni, A.; Angotzi, G.N.; Vato, A.; Ricci, D.; Panzeri S.; Fadiga, L.
Carbon nanotube composite coating of neural microelectrodes preferentially improves the multiunit signal-to-noise ratio
Journal of Neural Engineering 066013 (2011)

Castagnola E., Biso M. and Ricci D. (2009)
Improvement of Polypyrrole and Carbon Nanotube Co-deposition Techniques for High Charge-transfer Electrodes
Physica Status Solidi B-Basic Solid State Physics, vol. 246, (no. 11-12), pp. 2469-2472, 0370-1972

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alt Epicortical microelectrode arrays
  • MicroElectrodes
  • ECoG
People involved:

Alberto Ansaldo Elisa Castagnola Emma Maggiolini Davide Ricci Luciano Fadiga

We designed a family of micro-electrocorticography (ECoG) arrays based on the commercially available flexible printed circuit (FPC) technology, tailoring the designs according to the different neurophysiological experiments. Up to now we developed devices suitable for ECoG both on rats, primates (marmoset) and humans, with a number of recording sites ranging from 16 up to 128 and electrode diameters from 75 up to 200 µ. The devices are post processed in our laboratory by electrodepositing different high surface area nanostructured coatings such as gold and carbon nanotubes (CNT), PEDOT-CNT etc... in order to reduce electrode impedance and achieve a better signal-to-noise ratio. The microelectrodes - obtained by laser ablation of the polyimide layer insulating the copper FPC - are chemically passivated by gold electroplating and then post processed with the HSA coatings. Different strategies to reduce the potential risks due to the use of nonmaterials - such as the use of hydrogels films on the device surface - are studies as well. Currently there are two ongoing collaborations with prof. Miran Skrap (Udine Hospital, Italy) and Dr. Atsushi Iriki (RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Japan).

(a, b) Photographs of the arrays for small (a) and large (b) total recording area. (c) Scanning electron microscopy images of a gold-CNT coated recording site. (d) Optical image of a flexible micro-ECog array coated with PEDOT-CNT nanocomposite and encapsulated  with fibrin. (b) SEM image of a single recording/stimulation site encapsulated with fibrin (the sample is dehydrated).

*Castagnola E., *Ansaldo A., *Maggiolini E., *Angotzi G. N., Skrap M., *Ricci D. and *Fadiga L. (2013)
Biologically Compatible Neural Interface to Safely Couple Nanocoated Electrodes to the Surface of the Brain
ACS Nano, vol. 7, (no. 5), pp. 3887-3895, 1936-0851

*Baranauskas G., *Maggiolini E., *Castagnola E., *Ansaldo A., *Mazzoni A., *Angotzi G. N., *Vato A., *Ricci D., *Panzeri S. and *Fadiga L. (2011)
Carbon nanotube composite coating of neural microelectrodes preferentially improves the multiunit signal-to-noise ratio
Journal of Neural Engineering, vol. 8, (no. 6), pp. 066013, 1741-2552

Castagnola E., Biso M. and Ricci D. (2009)
Improvement of Polypyrrole and Carbon Nanotube Co-deposition Techniques for High Charge-transfer Electrodes
Physica Status Solidi B-Basic Solid State Physics, vol. 246, (no. 11-12), pp. 2469-2472, 0370-1972

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alt In-situ grown carbon nanotubes interfaces
  • Nanotechnology
  • Carbon Nanotubes
  • Interface
People involved:

Alberto Ansaldo Elisa Castagnola Davide Ricci

We are able to synthetize both single walled and multi walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs, MWCNTs) by chemical vapour deposition (CVD) on various substrates including oxides (SiO2, AlO2) and metals (tungsten, platinum, gold). Our speciality are the synthesis of transparent conductive networks, patterned vertically aligned CNT forests and the in situ synthesis of CNT fluff on metal electrodes for neural recording and stimulation to improve their electrochemical performance.

Scanning electron micrographs of: (a) SWCNT percolating network over SiO2 as synthetized by CVD; (b) MWCNT fluff synthetized without any oxide interlayer directly over a gold thin film using a photoresist to control the catalyst patterning from salt solution; (c) a vertically aligned MWCNT forest. The two-heights pattern is defined by lithographic control of the catalyst deposition; (c) CNT coated electrode for intracortical recording. CNTs are locally synthetized over the metallic tip of a silica glass isolated metal electrode.

*Ansaldo A., *Castagnola E., *Maggiolini E., *Fadiga L. and *Ricci D. (2011)
Superior Electrochemical Performance of Carbon Nanotubes Directly Grown on Sharp Microelectrodes
ACS Nano, vol. 5, (no. 3), pp. 2206-2214, 1936-0851

Castagnola E., Ansaldo A., Fadiga L. and Ricci D. (2010)
Chemical vapour deposited carbon nanotube coated microelectrodes for intracortical neural recording
Physica Status Solidi B-Basic Solid State Physics, vol. 247, (no. 11-12), pp. 2703-2707, 0370-1972

Ansaldo A., Jaybhaye S., Chiarolini M., Di Zitti E. and Ricci D. (2009)
Single-walled carbon nanotube networks growth optimization
Physica Status Solidi B-Basic Solid State Physics, vol. 246, (no. 11-12), pp. 2473-2476, 0370-1972

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alt Intracortical microelectrodes
  • MicroElectrodes
  • Brain
  • Nanotechnology
People involved:

Alberto Ansaldo Elisa Castagnola Emma Maggiolini Davide Ricci Luciano Fadiga

We develop and apply different high surface area coatings such as in situ synthetized Carbon Nanotubes (CVD-CNT) and electrochemically co-deposition nanocomposites - polypyrrole CNT (PPy-CNT) and gold CNT (Au-CNT) - onto standard metal microelectrodes in order to improve the ability of intracorical electrode to sense and stimulate the brain tissue. The experimental platform we developed allow us to perform in vivo direct comparisons of the coated electrodes performance. We are able to design different configurations of single or multiple microelectrodes tailored according to specific neurophysiological aims.

A) SEM image of a tetrode with one facet coated by PPY-CNT and one by Au-CNT. The panels show the surface morphology of these coatings; B) Schematic illustration of the three squares formed by facets coated with the same CNT-composite in the tetrodes-array: the PPy-CNTs-square (red), the Au-CNTs-square (blue) and the pristine-square (black);

*Ansaldo A., *Castagnola E., *Maggiolini E., *Fadiga L. and *Ricci D. (2011)
Superior Electrochemical Performance of Carbon Nanotubes Directly Grown on Sharp Microelectrodes
ACS Nano, vol. 5, (no. 3), pp. 2206-2214, 1936-0851

Baranauskas, G.; Maggiolini, E.;Castagnola, E.; Ansaldo, A.; Mazzoni, A.; Angotzi, G.N.; Vato, A.; Ricci, D.; Panzeri S.; Fadiga, L.
Carbon nanotube composite coating of neural microelectrodes preferentially improves the multiunit signal-to-noise ratio
Journal of Neural Engineering 066013 (2011)

Castagnola E., Ansaldo A., Fadiga L. and Ricci D. (2010)
Chemical vapour deposited carbon nanotube coated microelectrodes for intracortical neural recording
Physica Status Solidi B-Basic Solid State Physics, vol. 247, (no. 11-12), pp. 2703-2707, 0370-1972

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alt Stretchable electrodes
  • MicroElectrodes
  • Flexible
People involved:

Alberto Ansaldo Davide Ricci Luciano Fadiga

Stretchable electronics is an attractive field for many applications. We are studying different techniques to reliably deposit metallic conductors on flexible and stretchable substrates such as silicone in order to make devices that can withstand extreme elongations maintaining their conductivity. In particular, we focus on electroless depositions in order to have a practical and scalable method to achieve conformable electrodes.

A: Gold electroless depositated on PDMS. Square resistance has been measured with a custom made platform that can impose a current and measure voltage or resistance during stretching of the samples.B: Platinum electroless depositated on laser ablated PDMS. Modification induced by laser ablation create an active substrate for metal deposition.

Bai, H.-J.; Shao, M.-L.; Gou, H.-L.; Xu, J.-J.; Chen, H.-Y.
Patterned Au/poly(dimethylsiloxane) substrate fabricated by chemical plating coupled with electrochemical etching for cell patterning
Langmuir, 25, 10402–7 (2009).

Dupas-Bruzek, C.; Dréan, P.; Derozier, D.
Pt metallization of laser transformed medical grade silicone rubber: Last step toward a miniaturized nerve electrode fabrication process
Journal of Applied Physics 106, 074913 (2009).

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alt Neural microelectrode characterization
  • Electrochemistry
  • MicroElectrodes
People involved:

Alberto Ansaldo Elisa Castagnola Emma Maggiolini Davide Ricci Luciano Fadiga

We characterize the electrochemical performance of different high surface area coated microelectrodes both from an electrochemical point of view and in in-vivo experiments. Main testing procedures include:

  • electrochemical impedance spectroscopy and cyclic voltammetry;
  • the microelectrode ability to withstand sustained stimulation activity by current pulses;
  • nanocoating mechanical stability and shelf life;
  • ability of the nanocoatings of improving microelectrodes performance during neurophysiological in vivo experiments.
    • Examples of impedance spectra (a) and cyclic voltammograms (b) of uncoated and Ppy-CNT-coated microelectrodes. The black solid line corresponds to an uncoated electrode, solid lines correspond to electrodes that are mechanically stable, and circles correspond to electrodes that are not viable due to mechanical instability of the coating.(c) Sorted single neurons recorded during acute session, using CNT-CVD coated microelectrodes. Each color represents the discharge of a single unit. Action potential amplitudes ranged from approximately 300 to 1200 - V. (d) Averaged somatosensory evoke

      *Ansaldo A., *Castagnola E., *Maggiolini E., *Fadiga L. and *Ricci D. (2011)
      Superior Electrochemical Performance of Carbon Nanotubes Directly Grown on Sharp Microelectrodes
      ACS Nano, vol. 5, (no. 3), pp. 2206-2214, 1936-0851

      *Baranauskas G., *Maggiolini E., *Castagnola E., *Ansaldo A., *Mazzoni A., *Angotzi G. N., *Vato A., *Ricci D., *Panzeri S. and *Fadiga L. (2011)
      Carbon nanotube composite coating of neural microelectrodes preferentially improves the multiunit signal-to-noise ratio
      Journal of Neural Engineering, vol. 8, (no. 6), pp. 066013, 1741-2552

      Castagnola E., Ansaldo A., Fadiga L. and Ricci D. (2010)
      Chemical vapour deposited carbon nanotube coated microelectrodes for intracortical neural recording
      Physica Status Solidi B-Basic Solid State Physics, vol. 247, (no. 11-12), pp. 2703-2707, 0370-1972

      *Castagnola E., *Ansaldo A., *Maggiolini E., *Angotzi G. N., Skrap M., *Ricci D. and *Fadiga L. (2013)
      Biologically Compatible Neural Interface to Safely Couple Nanocoated Electrodes to the Surface of the Brain
      ACS Nano, vol. 7, (no. 5), pp. 3887-3895, 1936-0851

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alt Novel Materials for Soft Actuation
  • Nanotechnology
  • Carbon Nanotubes
  • Soft Actuators
People involved:

Alberto Ansaldo Grzegorz Bubak David Gendron Davide Ricci

Low voltage, dry electrochemical actuators can be prepared by using a gel made of carbon nanotubes and ionic liquid. Their performance can be significantly improved by chemical and physical modifications. In fact a range of parameters affects the response of such actuators; the most influential seem to be the material mechanical properties, the specific capacitance and the electric conductivity of the electrodes, and the ionic conductivity of the electrolyte. The preparation of novel hybrids is one of the strategies that we pursue to improve stress, strain and operating frequency.

 

Specific projects investigate:

  • Improvement of the solid polymer electrolyte ionic conductivity and mechanical properties through the use of interpenetrated polymer networks or polymerizable ionic liquids;
  • Study of novel hybrid materials through combination of carbon nanotubes with conducting polymers or inorganic molecules with high specific capacitance;

Feasibility study of the chemical crosslinking of carbon nanotubes through the use of conducting polymer oligomers chains capable of improving the material specific capacitance;

(a) A sketch of the cross-linking of carbon nanotubes by 1,4 phenylenediamine molecules; (b) SEM image of carbon nanotube-polypyrrole hybrid material obtained by chemical polymerization of the pyrrole monomer on the carbon nanotubes suspended in an ionic liquid; (c) schematic representation of a carbon nanotube/interpenetrated polymer composite electrode material

*Biso M., *Ansaldo A., Picardo E. and *Ricci D. (2012)
Increasing the maximum strain and efficiency of bucky gel actuators by pyrrole oxidative polymerization on carbon nanotubes dispersed in an ionic liquid
Carbon, vol. 50, (no. 12), pp. 4506-4511, 0008-6223

*Biso M., *Ansaldo A., Futaba D. N., Hata K. and *Ricci D. (2011)
Cross-linking super-growth carbon nanotubes to boost the performance of bucky gel actuators
Carbon, vol. 49, (no. 7), pp. 2253-2257, 0008-6223

Biso M., Ansaldo A. and Ricci D. (2010)
Performance improvement in bucky gel actuators by chemical modifications of carbon nanotubes
Physica Status Solidi - Rapid Research Letters, vol. 4, (no. 3-4), pp. 64-66

Biso M. and Ricci D. (2009)
Multi-walled carbon nanotubes plastic actuator
Physica Status Solidi B-Basic Solid State Physics, vol. 246, (no. 11-12), pp. 2820-2823, 0370-1972

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alt Soft Actuators
  • Nanotechnology
  • Carbon Nanotubes
  • Soft Actuators
  • Motor Rehabilitation
  • Sensory Rehabilitation
People involved:

Alberto Ansaldo Grzegorz Bubak Samuel Garcia David Gendron Davide Ricci

The realization of novel and advanced biomedical devices would benefit from the development of innovative low voltage and lightweight actuators. A promising solution comes from the ionic electroactive polymers, but unfortunately, prototypes proposed up to now are unable to fulfill all the requirements for real applications. It is necessary to develop an integrated approach that comprehends in the same vision both electrical and mechanical design and the development of proper electrochemically optimized materials.

A multidisciplinary project aiming to exploit the properties of soft actuators as rehabilitation tool - Enhancing Stroke Rehabilitation with a Novel Tactile Feedback Device (ENTAC) - is currently ongoing in collaboration with Michela Bassolino (PAP lab) and Netta Gurari (DTI lab).

    Specific projects investigate:
  • Improvement of the specific capacitance of the counter electrode for the use in a linear actuator based on IIT Italian patent n. TO2010A000548 (International application IB2011/052780); and realization of the prototypes;
  • Electrical insulation of the device with parylene or silicones for aqueous/biological operation;
  • Modify the existing actuator technology so that it can relay perceivable tactile information;

Typical structures of (a) bimorph, (b) linear and (c) multiunit soft actuators

*Biso M., *Ansaldo A. and *Ricci D. (2012)
Geometry dependent performance of bucky gel actuators: increasing operating frequency by miniaturization
Physica Status Solidi B-Basic Solid State Physics, vol. 249, (no. 12), pp. 2361-2364, 0370-1972

Ceseracciu L., Biso M., Ansaldo A., Futaba D. N., Hata K., Barone A. C. and Ricci D. (2011)
Mechanics and actuation properties of bucky gel-based electroactive polymers
Sensors and Actuators B-Chemical, vol. 156, (no. 2), pp. 949-953, 0925-4005

*Biso M., *Ansaldo A., Vintera V. and *Ricci D.
Linear and bending actuation of bucky gel
2011 Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices (EAPAD) XIII, vol. 7976, San Diego, USA, 6-10 March 2011

Biso M., Ansaldo A., Futaba D. N., Hata K. and Ricci D. (2010)
Benchmarking bucky gel actuators: chemically modified commercial carbon nanotubes versus super-growth carbon nanotubes
Physica Status Solidi B-Basic Solid State Physics, vol. 247, (no. 11-12), pp. 3055-3058, 0370-1972

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Last Updated on Friday, 22 May 2015 10:50

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