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Title: Microelectrode array fabrication for electrochemical detection with carbon nanotubes
Author: Clark, James
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 2016
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Understanding how the brain works remains one of the key challenges for scientists. To further this understanding a wide variety of technologies and research methods have been developed. One such technology is conductive electrodes, used to measure the electrical signals elicited from neuronal cells and tissues. These electrodes can be fabricated as a singular electrode or as a multi-electrode array (MEA). This permits bio-electrical measurements from one particular area or simultaneous measurements from multiple areas, respectively. Studying electrical and chemical signals of individual cells in situ requires the use of electrodes with ≤20 µm diameter. However, electrodes of this size generally produce high impedance, perturbing recording of the small signals generated from individual cells. Nanomaterials, such as carbon nanotubes (CNTs), can be deposited to increase the real surface area of these electrodes, producing higher sensitivity measurements. This thesis investigates the potential for using photo-thermal chemical vapour deposition grown CNTs as the electrode material for a de novo fabricated MEA. This device aimed to measure electrochemical signals in the form of dopamine, an important mammalian neurotransmitter, as well as conventional bio-electrical signals that the device is designed for. Realising this aim began with improving CNT aqueous wetting behaviour via oxygen plasma functionalisation. This procedure demonstrated grafting of oxygen functional groups to the CNT structure, and dramatic improvements in aqueous wetting behaviour, with CNTs attached to the device. Subsequently, oxygen plasma functionalised CNT-based MEAs were fabricated and tested, allowing comparisons with a non-functionalised CNT MEA and a state-of-the-art commercial MEA. The functionalised CNT MEA demonstrated an order of magnitude improvement compared to commercial MEAs (2.75 kΩ vs. 25.6 kΩ), at the biologically relevant frequency of 1 kHz. This was followed by measurement of one of the best sensitivity density values, compared to the available literature, for the electrochemical detection of dopamine (9.48 µA µM-1 mm-2). The functionalised CNT MEA then illustrated some selectivity compared to common interferents, i.e. ascorbic acid, of a higher concentration. Nonetheless, imaging of the MEA revealed CNTs were being removed from the electrode areas due to extensive use. Therefore, the final results chapter aimed to develop a novel fabrication route for CNT-based MEAs that produced improved CNT retention on the electrodes. This next-generation functionalised CNT-based MEA displayed improved CNT retention, whilst also producing competitive electrochemical impedance values at 1 kHz (17.8 kΩ) and excellent electrochemical selectivity for dopamine vs. ascorbic acid. Overall, this thesis demonstrates the potential for using MEAs as electrochemical detectors of biological molecules, specifically when using functionalised CNTs as the electrode material.
Supervisor: Silva, S. R. Sponsor: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available