Multimodal, Multiscale, and High-resolution Bioelectronics Enabled by Nanoscale Soft Conductors

Flavia Vitale

Assistant Professor of Neurology and Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

Departments of Neurology Bioengineering, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

University of Pennsylvania

December 6, 2022 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm 6-104, Chipman Room

Flavia Vitale

Bioelectronic technologies have enabled novel and more effective approaches to diagnose and treat a variety of neurological and neuromuscular disorders. The vast majority of bioelectronic devices, however, still rely on traditional noble metal and silicon materials, which are expensive to source and process, and are intrinsically inadequate to safely interface with soft tissues. Thus, the development and clinical translation of safe, biocompatible, and long-term stable bioelectronics require significant innovations in materials and fabrication strategies. Soft nanoscale conductors, such as nanocarbons and MXenes, are uniquely positioned to address these challenges, as they combine remarkable electronic and electrochemical properties, with intrinsically high mass-specific surface area and low density. Furthermore, they can be easily integrated within scalable solution-based processes, thus allowing to easily modulate the electronic, mechanical, and optical properties.

In this talk I will describe our work on novel processing and fabrication approaches for high-resolution, multiscale bioelectronic devices based on Ti3C2Tx MXene. Specifically, I will discuss the emerging electronic and electrochemical behavior of Ti3C2Tx MXene that make it particularly attractive as bioelectronic material. I will also describe our custom scalable liquid-phase processes to translate the remarkable molecular properties into high-resolution bioelectronic interfaces with tunable optical and electronic properties and fully customizable geometry. In addition to being low density, magnetic susceptibility measurements revealed that Ti3C2Tx MXene is a weakly paramagnetic material and that its susceptibility is much closer to tissues than metals. Thus, MXene-based devices are compatible with artifact-free clinical neuroimaging, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT), opening up new opportunities for multimodal investigations of brain function and disease. In the final part of the talk, I will present examples of applications of soft MXene bioelectronics in both implantable and wearable devices for monitoring, diagnostics, and brain-computer interfaces at high-resolution and at multiple scales. 

Dr. Flavia Vitale is an Assistant Professor in the Center for Neuroengineering and Therapeutics at the University of Pennsylvania, and in the Departments of Neurology Bioengineering, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. She is also a core faculty member of the Brain Science, Translation, Innovation, and Modulation Center at Penn and of the Center of Neurotrauma, Neurodegeneration & Restoration at the Philadelphia VA. Dr. Vitale earned her B.S. and M.S. in Biomedical Engineering at the Università Campus Biomedico di Roma in 2008, and in 2012 she received her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at the Università di Roma “La Sapienza”. She completed a postdoctoral training in Chemical Engineering at Rice University, a Neuroengineering training at Penn, and in 2018 she joined the Penn faculty.  

Dr. Vitale’s research interests are in the area of novel bioelectronic interfaces for studying, diagnosing and treating disorders of the nervous and neuromuscular systems. The ultimate goal of the Vitale Lab is to translate these innovative technologies and scientific knowledge to patient care and improve outcomes.

Dr. Vitale has been recognized with several awards, including the Welch Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, the Taking Flight Award from Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy, the McCabe Fellow and Linda Pechenik Investigator Awards from the University of Pennsylvania, the K12 Interdisciplinary Rehabilitation Engineering Career Development Award from the NIH, and the 2021 Global Young Scientist Award from iCANX.