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A Multi-Scale Approach to Shaping Carbon Nanotube Structures for Hollow Microneedles


Lyon, Bradley Joseph (2014) A Multi-Scale Approach to Shaping Carbon Nanotube Structures for Hollow Microneedles. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/BJGT-TB74.


The concept of a carbon nanotube microneedle array is explored in this thesis from multiple perspectives including microneedle fabrication, physical aspects of transdermal delivery, and in vivo transdermal drug delivery experiments. Starting with standard techniques in carbon nanotube (CNT) fabrication, including catalyst patterning and chemical vapor deposition, vertically-aligned carbon nanotubes are utilized as a scaffold to define the shape of the hollow microneedle. Passive, scalable techniques based on capillary action and unique photolithographic methods are utilized to produce a CNT-polymer composite microneedle. Specific examples of CNT-polyimide and CNT-epoxy microneedles are investigated. Further analysis of the transport properties of polymer resins reveals general requirements for applying arbitrary polymers to the fabrication process.

The bottom-up fabrication approach embodied by vertically-aligned carbon nanotubes allows for more direct construction of complex high-aspect ratio features than standard top-down fabrication approaches, making microneedles an ideal application for CNTs. However, current vertically-aligned CNT fabrication techniques only allow for the production of extruded geometries with a constant cross-sectional area, such as cylinders. To rectify this limitation, isotropic oxygen etching is introduced as a novel fabrication technique to create true 3D CNT geometry. Oxygen etching is utilized to create a conical geometry from a cylindrical CNT structure as well as create complex shape transformations in other CNT geometries.

CNT-polymer composite microneedles are anchored onto a common polymer base less than 50 µm thick, which allows for the microneedles to be incorporated into multiple drug delivery platforms, including modified hypodermic syringes and silicone skin patches. Cylindrical microneedles are fabricated with 100 µm outer diameter and height of 200-250 µm with a central cavity, or lumen, diameter of 30 µm to facilitate liquid drug flow. In vitro delivery experiments in swine skin demonstrate the ability of the microneedles to successfully penetrate the skin and deliver aqueous solutions.

An in vivo study was performed to assess the ability of the CNT-polymer microneedles to deliver drugs transdermally. CNT-polymer microneedles are attached to a hand actuated silicone skin patch that holds a liquid reservoir of drugs. Fentanyl, a potent analgesic, was administered to New Zealand White Rabbits through 3 routes of delivery: topical patch, CNT-polymer microneedles, and subcutaneous hypodermic injection. Results demonstrate that the CNT-polymer microneedles have a similar onset of action as the topical patch. CNT-polymer microneedles were also vetted as a painless delivery approach compared to hypodermic injection. Comparative analysis with contemporary microneedle designs demonstrates that the delivery achieved through CNT-polymer microneedles is akin to current hollow microneedle architectures. The inherent advantage of applying a bottom-up fabrication approach alongside similar delivery performance to contemporary microneedle designs demonstrates that the CNT-polymer composite microneedle is a viable architecture in the emerging field of painless transdermal delivery.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:carbon nanotube, microneedle, drug delivery, oxygen etching
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Aeronautics
Awards:Demetriades-Tsafka-Kokkalis Prize in Nanotechnology or Related Fields, 2014. William F. Ballhaus Prize, 2014. Hans G. Hornung Prize, 2014. Charles D. Babcock Award, 2011.
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Gharib, Morteza
Group:Kavli Nanoscience Institute, GALCIT
Thesis Committee:
  • Tai, Yu-Chong (chair)
  • Ravichandran, Guruswami (chair)
  • Gharib, Morteza
  • McKeon, Beverley J.
Defense Date:13 May 2014
Non-Caltech Author Email:bradley.lyon (AT)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:05302014-012121120
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8436
Deposited By: Bradley Lyon
Deposited On:30 Jun 2015 23:17
Last Modified:09 Aug 2022 17:00

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