Short description: The aim of this proposal is to develop an embedded optical and electrochemical micro sensor array for functional verification of thin layers of bacteriorhodopsin (BR) designed for integration in a novel subretinal implant. The BR protein is isolated from the purple membrane of Halobacterium salinarum and functions as a highly stable light-activated proton pump. By organising the BR protein in an oriented multi-layer thin film on top of a porous biocompatible substrate, light activation triggers the generation of an unidirectional ion gradient. This ion gradient would change the local pH to a level that stimulate the bipolar cells in the retina (thereby replacing damaged photoreceptors) in order to restore vision. The student would be expected to design a new CMOS sensor array platform consisting of alternating photodiodes and ISFET sensors based on an existing prototype, packaging into a sensor format suitable for integration in an in vitro test platform, and perform measurements in vitro using thin films of BR protein. This project will use microsystems technology to probe protein function at a fundamental level never done before in literature and act as a test platform for a commercial retinal implant under development with a large global market potential.
Formal requirements: Masters degree in Electronic Engineering, Physics, Microsystems Technology or equivalent. Knowledge of CMOS design and bio/molecular electronics/BioMEMS would be an advantage.