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  • Author: Uwe Pliquett x
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Designing proper frontend electronics is critical in the development of highly sophisticated electrode systems. Multielectrode arrays for measuring electrical signals or impedance require multichannel readout systems. Even more challenging is the differential or ratiometric configuration with simultaneous assessment of measurement and reference channels. In this work, an eight-channel frontend was developed for contacting a 2×8 electrode array (8 measurement and 8 reference electrodes) with a large common electrode to the impedance gain-phase analyzer Solartron 1260 (S-1260). Using the three independent and truly parallel monitor channels of the S-1260, impedance of trapped cells and reference material was measured at the same time, thereby considerably increasing the performance of the device. The frontend electronics buffers the generator output and applies a potentiostatic signal to the common electrode of the chip. The applied voltage is monitored using the current monitor of the S-1260 via voltage/current conversion. The frontend monitors the current through the electrodes and converts it to a voltage fed into the voltage monitors of the S-1260. For assessment of the 8 electrode pairs featured by the chip, a relay-based multiplexer was implemented. Extensive characterization and calibration of the frontend were carried out in a frequency range between 100 Hz and 1 MHz. Investigating the influence of the multiplexer and the frontend electronics, direct measurement with and without frontend was compared. Although differences were evident, they have been negligible below one per cent. The significance of measurement using the complex S-1260-frontend-electrode was tested using Kohlrausch's law. The impedance of an electrolytic dilution series was measured and compared to the theoretical values. The coincidence of measured values and theoretical prediction serves as an indicator for electrode sensitivity to cell behavior. Monitoring of cell behavior on the microelectrode surface will be shown as an example.


Miniaturized electrodes are introduced in life sciences in a great number and variety. They are often designed for a special purpose without the need of quantitative analysis, such as for detecting cells or water droplets in a fluid channel. Other developments aim in monitoring a single quantity in a process where all other factors held constant.

To use miniaturized electrodes for quantitative measurements, their behavior should be known in detail and stable over time in order to allow a mathematical correction of the data measured.

Here we show test procedures for evaluating macroscopic but also microscopic electrodes. The most important quality parameters for electrode systems used in life science are the electrode impedance, its stability, the useful frequency range as well as the limits for applied stimulus without driving the electrode system into a non-linear region of the current/voltage relation. Proper electrode design allows a bandwidth from 100 Hz up to some MHz for impedances ranging over decades from 50 Ω up to several MΩ.