Photoelectrochemical modulation of neuronal activity with free-standing coaxial silicon nanowires

Ramya Parameswaran, João L. Carvalho-De-Souza, Yuanwen Jiang, Michael J. Burke, John F. Zimmerman, Kelliann Koehler, Andrew W. Phillips, Jaeseok Yi, Erin J. Adams, Francisco Bezanilla, Bozhi Tian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

165 Scopus citations


Optical methods for modulating cellular behaviour are promising for both fundamental and clinical applications. However, most available methods are either mechanically invasive, require genetic manipulation of target cells or cannot provide subcellular specificity. Here, we address all these issues by showing optical neuromodulation with free-standing coaxial p-type/intrinsic/n-type silicon nanowires. We reveal the presence of atomic gold on the nanowire surfaces, likely due to gold diffusion during the material growth. To evaluate how surface gold impacts the photoelectrochemical properties of single nanowires, we used modified quartz pipettes from a patch clamp and recorded sustained cathodic photocurrents from single nanowires. We show that these currents can elicit action potentials in primary rat dorsal root ganglion neurons through a primarily atomic gold-enhanced photoelectrochemical process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)260-266
Number of pages7
JournalNature Nanotechnology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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