Research finds gallium nitride is non-toxic, biocompatible - holds promise for implants

October 24, 2011
This is a scanning electron microscope image of cell growth on GaN that has been coated with peptides. Credit: Albena Ivanisevic, North Carolina State University

Researchers from North Carolina State University and Purdue University have shown that the semiconductor material gallium nitride (GaN) is non-toxic and is compatible with human cells – opening the door to the material's use in a variety of biomedical implant technologies.

GaN is currently used in a host of technologies, from LED lighting to optic sensors, but it is not in widespread use in biomedical implants. However, the new findings from NC State and Purdue mean that GaN holds promise for an array of implantable technologies – from electrodes used in neurostimulation therapies for Alzheimer's to transistors used to monitor blood chemistry.

"The first finding is that GaN, unlike other semiconductor materials that have been considered for biomedical implants, is not toxic. That minimizes risk to both the environment and to patients," says Dr. Albena Ivanisevic, who co-authored a paper describing the research. Ivanisevic is an associate professor of materials science and engineering at NC State and associate professor of the joint biomedical engineering program at NC State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Researchers used a mass spectrometry technique to see how much gallium is released from GaN when the material is exposed to various environments that mimic conditions in the human body. This is important because gallium oxides are toxic. But the researchers found that GaN is very stable in these environments – releasing such a tiny amount of gallium that it is non-toxic.

The researchers also wanted to determine GaN's potential biocompatibility. To do this they bonded peptides – the building blocks that make up proteins – to the GaN material. Researchers then placed peptide-coated GaN and uncoated GaN into cell cultures to see how the material and the interacted.

Researchers found that the peptide-coated GaN bonded more effectively with the cells. Specifically, more cells bonded to the material and those cells spread over a larger area.

"This matters because we want that give us some control over cell behavior," Ivanisevic says. "For example, being able to make cells adhere to a material or to avoid it.

"One problem facing many , such as sensors, is that they can become coated with biological material in the body. We've shown that we can coat GaN with peptides that attract and bond with cells. That suggests that we may also be able to coat GaN with peptides that would help prevent cell growth – and keep the implant 'clean.' Our next step will be to explore the use of such 'anti-fouling' peptides with GaN."

Explore further: Panasonic Develops a Gallium Nitride (GaN) Power Transistor with Ultra High Breakdown Voltage over 10000V

More information: "Gallium Nitride is Biocompatible and Non-Toxic Before and After Functionalization with Peptides," forthcoming paper in Acta Biomaterialia.

Related Stories

NXP brings GaN technology mainstream

June 7, 2011

At IMS2011 this week, NXP Semiconductors N.V. is showcasing a live demo of its next-generation products based on Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology.

Cancer detection from an implantable, flexible LED

September 19, 2011

Can a flexible LED conformably placed on the human heart, situated on the corrugated surface of the human brain, or rolled upon the blood vessels, diagnose or even treat various diseases? These things might be a reality in ...

Recommended for you

New electrical energy storage material shows its power

August 24, 2016

A powerful new material developed by Northwestern University chemist William Dichtel and his research team could one day speed up the charging process of electric cars and help increase their driving range.

Calcium channel blockers caught in the act at atomic level

August 24, 2016

An atomic level analysis has revealed how two classes of calcium channel blockers, widely prescribed for heart disease patients, produce separate therapeutic effects through their actions at different sites on the calcium ...

Bio-inspired tire design: Where the rubber meets the road

August 24, 2016

The fascination with the ability of geckos to scamper up smooth walls and hang upside down from improbable surfaces has entranced scientists at least as far back as Aristotle, who noted the reptile's remarkable feats in his ...

Selecting the right house plant could improve indoor air

August 24, 2016

Indoor air pollution is an important environmental threat to human health, leading to symptoms of "sick building syndrome." But researchers report that surrounding oneself with certain house plants could combat the potentially ...

LiH mediates low-temperature ammonia synthesis

August 24, 2016

Nearly half of the world's population is fed by industrial N2 fixation, i. e., the Harbor-Bosch process. Although exergonic in nature, NH3 synthesis from N2 and H2 catalyzed by the fused Fe has to be conducted at elevated ...

3 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Standing Bear
not rated yet Oct 24, 2011
Ahhh, the zombie creation mechanism to create remote controlled people....bond to brain cells. Make insectlike soldiers. Soul-less police. Totalitarian governments will LOVE this! May God have mercy on us all!
Mabus
1 / 5 (3) Oct 24, 2011
So in the future we might see people covered entirely in LED implants that light red when get angry?
Cave_Man
1 / 5 (1) Oct 24, 2011
I prefer to imagine a super cooled boot made of gallium nitride that would allow me to use earths intense magnetic field to fly.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.