Three-dimensional electro-neural interfaces electroplated on subretinal prostheses

Emma Butt, Bing-Yi Wang, Andrew Shin, Zhijie Charles Chen, Mohajeet Bhuckory, Sarthak Shah, Ludwig Galambos, Theodore Kamins, Daniel Palanker, Keith Mathieson

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Objective. Retinal prosthetics offer partial restoration of sight to patients blinded by retinal degenerative diseases through electrical stimulation of the remaining neurons. Decreasing the pixel size enables increasing prosthetic visual acuity, as demonstrated in animal models of retinal degeneration. However, scaling down the size of planar pixels is limited by the reduced penetration depth of the electric field in tissue. We investigated 3-dimensional (3d) structures on top of photovoltaic arrays for enhanced penetration of the electric field, permitting higher resolution implants. Approach. 3D COMSOL models of subretinal photovoltaic arrays were developed to accurately quantify the electrodynamics during stimulation and verified through comparison to flat photovoltaic arrays. Models were applied to optimize the design of 3D electrode structures (pillars and honeycombs). Return electrodes on honeycomb walls vertically align the electric field with bipolar cells for optimal stimulation. Pillars elevate the active electrode, thus improving proximity to target neurons. The optimized 3D structures were electroplated onto existing flat subretinal prostheses. Main results. Simulations demonstrate that despite exposed conductive sidewalls, charge mostly flows via high-capacitance sputtered iridium oxide films topping the 3D structures. The 24 μm height of honeycomb structures was optimized for integration with the inner nuclear layer cells in the rat retina, whilst 35 μm tall pillars were optimized for penetrating the debris layer in human patients. Implantation of released 3D arrays demonstrates mechanical robustness, with histology demonstrating successful integration of 3D structures with the rat retina in-vivo. Significance. Electroplated 3D honeycomb structures produce vertically oriented electric fields, providing low stimulation thresholds, high spatial resolution, and high contrast for pixel sizes down to 20 μm. Pillar electrodes offer an alternative for extending past the debris layer. Electroplating of 3D structures is compatible with the fabrication process of flat photovoltaic arrays, enabling much more efficient retinal stimulation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number016030
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neural Engineering
Issue number1
Early online date16 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2024


  • retinal prosthetics
  • partial sight restoration
  • prosthetic vision
  • bipolar cells
  • iridium oxide films


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