FAQ

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What metal type is best for my application?

W- Tungsten

Tungsten is a versatile and widely-used microelectrode material that offers a good balance between performance and cost.

ADVANTAGES

  • Extremely strong and stiff metal provides probes with exceptional rigidity.
  • Great for acute and chronic recording due to biocompatibility and lower cost.
  • High corrosion resistance offers consistent long-term performance.

DISADVANTAGES

  • Does not provide the same degree of electrochemical performance or stability as platinum-iridium alloy, making it a poor alternative for microstimulation.
  • Lower charge transfer capacity of tungsten will result in larger, potentially unsafe interfacial potentials when applying the same stimulation current as to a platinum-iridium electrode.
  • Certain pH or stimulation conditions can lead to tungsten corrosion.

PI- Platinum-Iridium Alloy

Platinum-Iridium alloy is considered by many to be the “gold standard” for chronic recording and microstimulation due to its excellent electrochemical and mechanical characteristics.

ADVANTAGES

  • Platinum-iridium possesses lower concomitant impedance, higher charge transfer capacity, and improved electrochemical stability compared to tungsten and stainless steel.
  • Offers excellent and versatile microstimulation performance, allowing safe stimulation to be performed with small probe sizes.
  • Iridium content of alloy greatly improves mechanical hardness and stiffness, providing electrodes with a degree of bend resistance that approaches tungsten.

DISADVANTAGES

  • Greater cost than tungsten and stainless steel, making it less appropriate for acute recording or non-intensive chronic recording.
  • Can be vulnerable to corrosion and dissolution with some intensive stimulation protocols.

EL- Elgiloy

Elgiloy (a stainless cobalt-chromium alloy) is available in single electrodes for specialty applications, such as vibrating probes for SVET. Elgiloy is most commonly used in dental implants and offers good biocompatibility and corrosion resistance.

ADVANTAGES

  • Versatile metal that offers good recording performance in acute and chronic applications.
  • Contains a small percentage of iron, which allows electrode tracts to be visually identified using Prussian Blue staining techniques.

DISADVANTAGES

  • Inadequate for microstimulation due to poor charge transfer characteristics and electrochemical instability during stimulation.
  • May corrode and degrade in performance when implanted for long periods of time or subjected to certain stimulation protocols.

IR- Pure Iridium

For the most intensive stimulation conditions and protocols, pure iridium electrodes offer unparalleled performance, rigidity, and stability.

ADVANTAGES

  • Pure iridium can be electrochemically “activated” to create a layer of iridium oxide on the metal surface, imbuing it with exceptional electrochemical performance. These activated iridium oxide film (AIROF) electrodes offer some of the best stimulation performance known due to the fast faradaic charge transfer mechanisms available within the film.
  • Pure iridium is appropriate for very aggressive stimulation protocols or very small electrode sizes.
  • Exceptional hardness and rigidity.

DISADVANTAGES

  • High cost due to the specialty nature of the material.
  • Only available in 100 micron diameter size.
What length do I need?

The overall length of any electrode system is determined primarily on the depth of the tissue one wishes to record or stimulate and the micro-drive system being employed. Tungsten microprobes come in 76 mm or 125 mm (don’t see 125 um on WPI website) lengths or can be custom ordered in any length less than 5 inches. Platinum/Iridium typically comes in two inch lengths and stainless steel in 51 mm lengths but either can also be specified in shorter lengths or in longer lengths using stainless steel and polyimide tubing. Because of the high expense of pure iridium it is always mounted in stainless steel and polyimide tubing and is typically 50 mm long.

What Electrode configuration do I need?

We presently offer three different electrode configurations at this time, although we have fabricated many custom designs for customers in the past. As you observe what our part numbers look like for our probes, as seen under our Product section, you will notice they have a part number like WE30031.0A5. The 00 portion of the part number specifies the microprobe configuration.

Single Electrodes 00

Implies no special mounting with the sharpened probe being insulated with Parylene-C, having the length, width, tip profile and impedance as specified in the tables for ordering your electrodes.

PT

Electrodes which have been mounted into polyimide tubing in order to increase the stiffness and provide additional insulation thickness. This mounting is typically recommended when fairly high impedance electrodes must penetrate deeper layers of the brain or spinal cord.

Polymie tubing ST

Specifies our bipolar or stereotrodes. These electrodes when ordered with impedances less than 0.5 meohms are excellent for localizing stimulation current fields. Higher impedance stereotrodes are excellent for enhancing the isolation of single neural elements by simultaneous recording of multiple units on two closely spaced microelectrodes. The tip spacing is typically equal to the shaft diameter of one of the electrodes used in making the stereotrode. Different tip spacing is available upon request.

What is the insulation thickness?

All electrodes except the 3 inch Extra Fine-F profile tungsten microprobe, that have a 1 micron coat of Parylene-C insulation, have 3 microns of Parylene-C. It has been proven that this thickness works best for most all electrode tip profiles we offer. We selected 3 microns to provide a sufficiently small tip profile for getting close to neural elements, ease of electrode insertion and to minimize attenuation for higher impedance electrodes. Attenuation of the signal can occur as a result of capacitive shunting when recording with higher impedance microprobes in deep structures, so additional insulation maybe required in the form of WPI’s KT, polyimide microprobes. The Extra Fine profile (ex. TM31C10) for the 3 inch tungsten electrodes provides an extremely fine microprobe tip which is excellent when recording from small densely packed cell structures.

What tip impedance or exposure do I need?

Because of our unique fabrication process and the special properties of Parylene-C we are able to expose any microprobe with microscopic precision and reproducibility. Each microprobe is individually exposed under a high power microscope, inspected and electrically characterized. Our microprobes have a lower impedance value for the same tip exposure as other commercially available electrodes. It is therefore recommended that those who have not used our electrodes before specify a range of impedance in order to select the best impedance value for their application. Also since we have been providing microprobes to researchers for over 30 years, we can provide expert advice in selecting the best electrode design for your experimental paradigm. Please contact us and provide information regarding your researcher’s requirements. There is no additional charge for specifying a range of impedance values for any box of microprobes.

What tip profile is best for my application?

We offer a variety of different tip alternatives for those that prefer a specialized electrode profile for their research. The tip selection can provide subtle yet important changes to the performance of the electrode, as described below. It is recommended that first time users consider experimenting with different tip profiles to determine which works best for their recording or stimulation protocols.

A-Standard

Our standard tip profile features a sharp yet robust point that offers versatile performance and an effective balance between penetration and durability. The most widely used tip profile, we recommend our standard tip for most neural recording applications, though it is also effective for most stimulation protocols. We employ an arc exposure method that provides precise and consistent performance as well as a very wide range of available impedances. While this method results in a small variability in impedance from electrode to electrode, most researchers find it very acceptable for their application. For those that need a more exact tip exposure, we offer a laser exposure service for a small premium. Please contact us if you feel this service is right for you.

B-Blunted

Our blunted electrodes are engineered to have a more rounded, bullet-shaped tip. For many applications the blunted tip can offer superior stimulation performance, as its shorter profile can lead to the electrode acting more as a point source and providing improved isolation. Many investigators feel that this profile both provides greater selectivity than the conventional sharper tip profiles and is more appropriate for higher-intensity stimulation protocols. Some investigators have also reported observations that the use of blunted tips leads to fewer occurrences of punctured cells.

F-Extra fine

Our extra-fine tip profile features a significantly sharper taper as well as a thinner insulation layer. This type of electrode is commonly used for shallow preparations where it is necessary to record from small tightly-packed cell populations, such as the striate layers of the visual and auditory cortices. Due to the very delicate nature of these tips, they are only available in tungsten electrodes, in 3-inch (76mm) length and both 0.003" and 0.005" (75 and 125 micron) shaft diameter. For penetrations greater than 4 mm in which the tip impedance is greater than 1.5 MΩ, we recommend that an additional layer of polyimide tubing be specified to reduce capacitive shunting and to increase the stiffness of the electrode.

H-Heat Treated

Our heat-treated electrodes are intended for those investigators who must penetrate their probes through tough membranes, such as the dura mater of larger mammals. By applying a heat source near the electrode tip under a microscope, we have the ability to provide an electrode with a more gradual tapering tip than our standard profile, while also toughening the polymer insulation near the tip. These modifications allow the electrode to be pushed through tough membranes easier and with less risk of tip and insulation damage.

What Shaft diameter is best for my application?

We offer three different MicroProbe diameters, 0.003" (75 microns), 0.005" (125 microns) and 0.01" (250 microns). Whereas our tungsten electrodes are offered in all three diameters, the Platinum/Iridium, Pt/Ir, electrodes are offered in 0.01" (250 microns) and 0.003" (75 microns)diameters (MLS currently also offers 0.005” diameter as well). The 0.01" diameter Pt/Ir electrodes are excellent for most recording and stimulation protocols. The finer 0.003" diameter Pt/Ir electrodes have a 70/30% Platinum to iridium ratio for greater stiffness and have been used now for many of the same applications as well as for chronic implant studies.

 Stainless Steel (Elgiloy)  is 0.009" dia. and the Pure Iridium microprobes use 0.004" dia. iridium rod. The 0.003" diameter tungsten and Platinum/Iridium microprobes are fairly new and were developed in response from researchers who wanted microprobes which produced minimal tissue damage, especially when used for chronic implantation protocols.

 Tungsten  0.005" inch diameter microprobe is the most common size for most users. Many users require the heavier 0.01" dia. microprobe for penetrating tougher tissue and are less fragile.

Important! The take home message when recommending the optimum shaft diameter is to suggest smaller diameters for small animal work and for chronic applications and larger diameter for penetrating tough membranes and student use.
What type of connectors are used with our electrodes?

The M201 pin connectors are attached to the distal end of our electrodes. You can purchase these connectors as well as the mating connector, M202, by clicking here and going to our Accessory Page. Many users prefer to use our electrodes without any connector, which is fine. We will simply remove the connectors for you if requested. There is no discount for this since the connectors are attached at the beginning our fabrication process.

What are the tip exposures for different electrode impedance values?
Electrode Tip Exposure

Tip exposures for  Heat Tapered "H"  tip profiles have approximately 15 to 20 percent MORE exposure.

Tip exposures for  Blunted "B"  tip profiles have approximately 15 to 20 percent LESS exposure.

Tip exposures for  Extra Fine "F"  tip profiles have approximately 10 to 15 percent MORE exposure.

How do I specify a Microprobe configuration?

Based on your selected options, a unique part number will be assigned to reflect the customized specifications. Reference this part number to place your order, or to correspond with our team members in Customer Service or Tech Support . See below for a part number example.

Problems reading the impedance of your metal microelectrodes?

1 Check your impedance tester, maybe you are testing the impedance values at a different frequency than the 1 Kilohertz that MLS uses.

2 Check if your impedance tester doesn’t have a sample and hold circuit in which case the impedance is measured immediately upon pressing the test button and the impedance does not have a chance to stabilize.

3 Usually the impedance will drop after a few minutes of the electrode being in the saline solution.

4 Sometimes the electrodes can oxidize increasing the impedance in which case we recommend passing about negative 3 to 4.5 volts across the electrode in saline to clean and de-oxidize the electrode.

Is it possible for the microelectrodes to have different lengths within an individual array?

Yes, electrodes within any one array can be fabricated at any length between 0.5 mm and 10 mm. Use the FMA Design Sheet to specify individual lengths by their position in the array.

Which metals may I select for the electrodes?

At this time we are offering either platinum/iridium (70/30%) or pure iridium as the electrode’s solid core conductors. Although tungsten is slightly stiffer it is not considered by most investigators to be as inert or biocompatible.

What are the impedance values of the electrodes?

Selectable impedance values may range anywhere between 10 kilohm and 2.5 megohm, depending on your application. Impedance values may also differ for individual electrodes within an array. Also, it is possible to include an electrode with virtually zero impedance for ground or common, which is an un-insulated electrode.

How large are the electrode tips?

Typically, the microelectrode tips are between 2 and 3 microns for most Platinum/Iridium electrodes. This may be varied for special applications, however. For example, we are currently supplying pure iridium electrodes for a visual prosthesis study that have a diameter range of 5 to 6 microns.

What is the insulation over the electrodes?

The microelectrodes are insulated with Parylene-C, a biocompatible polymer that has been successfully used for many years as the primary insulator for countless implantable devices and electrodes.

Why do you show 2 electrodes with much longer lengths?

For FMAs requiring microelectrode lengths less than 2 mm, we recommend that at least 2 electrodes have lengths of 2.5 mm to act as anchoring pins. The anchoring pins provide necessary support to ensure that the array remains securely attached in the brain or spinal cord. These longer electrodes are typically chosen to be the reference and/or ground electrodes.

Can I use these arrays for both acute and chronic studies?

Yes. Although the FMAs were primarily designed for long-term chronic studies, they may also be used for acute studies where one needs to insure that the array will float with the brain during recording or stimulation protocols. If brain movement is not an issue, investigators typically use our Multi-Electrode Arrays.

Can I elect to have fewer than 18 electrodes?

Yes. Four is the minimum number of electrodes that may be ordered within a single FMA.

What is the tolerance of the specified electrode length?

At this time we can guarantee the specified electrode length to be within 200 microns.

Can I reuse the arrays?

You can reuse an array that has been used for acute studies. It is recommended you clean the array in 50% bleach/distilled water. Chronically used FMAs are typically not reused because of tightly bound connective tissue around the FMA and cable.

Can I specify an array with more or fewer electrodes having substrate geometry?

Yes. You can specify different layout geometries that also require a different number of electrodes. We have provided custom-designed ceramic substrates for customers. There is a one-time non-reoccurring engineering (NRE) charge of $3800 to $7500 (typical) to have your own layout and implant geometry designed for your particular application. Inner electrode spacing must be within 250 to 1000 micron constraints. Please allow 2 to 3 months for delivery of FMAs with custom designed ceramic substrates.

Are FMAs available with different connectors?

No. At this time we use custom nano connectors made by Omnetics Corp., designed for the sonic bonding techniques needed to attach the fine gold wires from the FMA. We may provide interface cables that can be attached between the Omnetics A8141-001 type design of the FMA and your headstage amplifier connector.

What cable lengths are available?

Cable lengths may be specified from 1.5 cm to 12 cm.

How can I minimize the cable tethering forces?

Putting a slight kink in the cable between the point where the cable exits the bone edge and the implanted array will help provide necessary slack during potential brain to skull movements. Also many investigators have found that applying a very small amount of highly viscous biocompatible cyanoacrylate glue over the cable about 2 to 3 mm from the implanted array and securing the cable to the pial surface is very effective in eliminating movement of the device.

Keeping the subject relatively immobile during the first few days after implant is also recommended. This assists in the natural encapsulation of the array at the surface of the brain owing to normal tissue adhesions that occur around any foreign body implant.

What type of wire is used from the array to the connector?

We used 0.001" (25 micron) gold wire from the ceramic substrate array to the connector. The cable is over-coated with MED6-6606 silicone elastomer for flexibility and strength.

What is the best way to implant the array?

The primary concern when handling the FMA prior to and during implantation is to ensure that the microelectrodes do not touch anything other than soft tissue. The microelectrode tips are very fragile and may bend if allowed to come in contact with bone or any other hard surface. It is imperative that the microelectrodes be implanted perpendicular to the surface of the brain to ensure minimal tissue disruption during insertion. We offer a vacuum inserter system, described in the user instructions, which is the preferred method of inserting the arrays.

How quickly should I insert the array into the brain?

It is recommended that the FMAs be inserted very slowly. The FMA should be lowered until there is just a small amount of dimpling of the brain. Allow the electrodes to penetrate the pial membrane before advancing the FMA further. Slowly lower the FMA into the brain, stopping the advancement every few hundred microns to allow the pial membrane to relax. The objective is to advance the FMA at a slow enough speed so as not to create a depression in the pial membrane, which will compress the brain tissue.

Is there tissue damage resulting from the insertion?

Tissue damage can be avoided by implementing the following precautions. First, try to avoid placing the electrodes over any blood vessels when making the initial positioning of the array for implantation. Second, ensure that the electrodes are as close to perpendicular to the brain’s surface as possible before lowering the array into the brain. And lastly, lower the array as slowly as possible into the brain.

What parts of the inserter tool can be sterilized?

The tubing, including the inserter wand, may be sterilized; although in most instances, it usually is only necessary to sterilize the tubing and cannula extending from the wand.

Can I implant the array through dura?

It is possible to implant the array through dura for smaller animals, although this is not advised for chronic studies. One reason for this caution is that there maybe lateral relative movement between the pial and dura membranes, which may cause the electrodes tips to move, causing local adhesions near the tip.