Conducting polymer electrodes for interfacing with the brain

Johnson Matthey
University of Cambridge

Poppy is investigating how to increase the lifetime of polymer-based electrodes implanted into the body to treat epilepsy, Parkinsons and depression. This practice is known as neuromodulation, and involves the delivery of electrical stimulation to a specific area of the brain. Current methods of neuromodulation involve administering electrical stimulation using electrodes made from platinum and other metals, but these inorganic metals come with certain disadvantages, including low flexibility and low-efficiency stimulation, and cause fibrous scar tissue to form around the electrode, which diminishes its functionality.

Using organic polymers as the materials from which to build the electrodes offers a solution to some of these challenges by reducing the mismatch in mechanical properties between the body and the electrode, reducing scarring and increasing stimulation efficiency. Currently, there are no polymer devices being mass-produced for medical device companies, mainly because the manufacturing techniques needed to fabricate them are hard to scale up. Poppy is working on a method for manufacturing these devices on a large scale using lithography and 3D printing, and is investigating ways to increase their lifetime, meaning fewer invasive operations for patients. Her approach will involve researching potentially suitable polymers and nanoparticles and comparing different fabrication methods.

Poppy holds a Masters degree in biomedical engineering with electrical engineering from Imperial College London. The focus of her work has been investigating conductive polymer electrodes for nerve regeneration. Poppy has a passion for giving back to the community and promotes STEM subjects to girls in secondary school. Poppy was a previous Royal Commission undergraduate scholar through the Diamond Jubilee Scholarships in partnership with the Institute of Engineering and Technology.

Poppy Oldroyd headshot
“I feel like I have been accepted into a family network of world-class researchers and experts whose common goal is to make a difference in the world. This collaboration with the Royal Commission will ensure that my research is application and patient-led, which will increase the possibilities of producing a medical-grade device for clinical use.”