Diamond and Related Materials, 103, 107720 (2020)
Nitrogen-doped ultrananocrystalline diamond (N-UNCD) is a promising material for a variety of neural interfacing applications, due to its unique combination of high conductivity, bioinertness, and durability. One emerging application for N-UNCD is as a photoelectrode material for high-precision optical neural stimulation. This may be used for the treatment of neurological disorders and for implantable bionic devices such as cochlear ear implants and retinal prostheses. N-UNCD is a well-suited material for stimulation photoelectrodes, exhibiting a photocurrent response to light at visible wavelengths with a high charge injection density [A. Ahnood, A. N. Simonov, J. S. Laird, M. I. Maturana, K. Ganesan, A. Stacey, M. R. Ibbotson, L. Spiccia, and S. Prawer, Appl. Phys. Lett. 108, 104,103 (2016)]. In this study, the photoresponse of N-UNCD to near-infrared (NIR) irradiation is measured. NIR light has greater optical penetration through tissue than visible wavelengths, opening the possibility to stimulate previously inaccessible target cells. It is found that N-UNCD exhibits a photoresponsivity which diminishes rapidly with increasing wavelength and is attributed to transitions between mid-gap states associated with the graphitic phase present at the grain boundaries and the conduction band tail. Oxygen surface termination on the diamond films provides further enhancement of the injected charge per photon, compared to as-grown or hydrogen terminated surfaces. Based on the measured injected charge density, we estimate that the generated photocurrent of oxygen terminated N-UNCD is sufficient to achieve extracellular stimulation of brain tissue within the safe optical exposure limit.