OBJECTIVE: To evaluate plasma-enhanced, chemically vapor deposited (PECVD) amorphous silicon carbide (α-SiC:H) as a protective coating for retinal prostheses and other implantable devices, and to study their failure mechanisms in vivo.
APPROACH: Retinal prostheses were implanted in rats sub-retinally for up to 1 year. Degradation of implants was characterized by optical and scanning electron microscopy. Dissolution rates of SiC, SiN x and thermal SiO2 were measured in accelerated soaking tests in saline at 87 °C. Defects in SiC films were revealed and analyzed by selectively removing the materials underneath those defects.
MAIN RESULTS: At 87 °C SiN x dissolved at 18.3 ± 0.3 nm d(-1), while SiO2 grown at high temperature (1000 °C) dissolved at 0.104 ± 0.008 nm d(-1). SiC films demonstrated the best stability, with no quantifiable change after 112 d. Defects in thin SiC films appeared primarily over complicated topography and rough surfaces.
SIGNIFICANCE: SiC coatings demonstrating no erosion in accelerated aging test for 112 d at 87 °C, equivalent to about 10 years in vivo, can offer effective protection of the implants. Photovoltaic retinal prostheses with PECVD SiC coatings exhibited effective protection from erosion during the 4 month follow-up in vivo. The optimal thickness of SiC layers is about 560 nm, as defined by anti-reflective properties and by sufficient coverage to eliminate defects.
- silicon carbide
- retinal prostheses
- protective coating
- neural stimulation
- chronic implant