Helke C, Reinhardt M, Arnold M, Schwenzer F, Haase M, Wachs M, Goßler C, Götz J, Keppeler D, Wolf B, Schaeper J, Salditt T, Moser T, Schwarz UT, Reuter D
Materials (Basel). 2022 Dec 22;16(1):106.
Improved hearing restoration by cochlear implants (CI) is expected by optical cochlear implants (oCI) exciting optogenetically modified spiral ganglion neurons (SGNs) via an optical pulse generated outside the cochlea. The pulse is guided to the SGNs inside the cochlea via flexible polymer-based waveguide probes. The fabrication of these waveguide probes is realized by using 6″ wafer-level micromachining processes, including lithography processes such as spin-coating cladding layers and a waveguide layer in between and etch processes for structuring the waveguide layer. Further adhesion layers and metal layers for laser diode (LD) bonding and light-outcoupling structures are also integrated in this waveguide process flow. Optical microscope and SEM images revealed that the majority of the waveguides are sufficiently smooth to guide light with low intensity loss. By coupling light into the waveguides and detecting the outcoupled light from the waveguide, we distinguished intensity losses caused by bending the waveguide and outcoupling. The probes were used in first modules called single-beam guides (SBGs) based on a waveguide probe, a ball lens and an LD. Finally, these SBGs were tested in animal models for proof-of-concept implantation experiments.