This paper reports our effort to develop amorphous silicon carbide (a-SiC) films for use as hermetic thin film coatings for mechanically-flexible neural electrodes. In our work, the a-SiC films were deposited by plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD) using two distinct methods, namely a single precursor approach using trimethylsilane, and a dual precursor approach using methane (CH4) and silane (SiH4). The mechanical properties of films deposited on Si substrates were characterized using the wafer curvature and load-deflection methods. The effectiveness of the films as moisture barriers for polyimide substrates was characterized by measuring the leakage currents of SiC-coated interdigitated electrode structures soaked in PBS. A microfabricated prototype of the flat interface nerve electrode (FINE) based on a flexible polyimide substrate and a PECVD SiC capping layer was fabricated using a monolithic process based on conventional micromachining techniques. To facilitate this approach, a reactive ion etching process was developed that exhibited high etch rates and high selectively to the SiC films.
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