A microelectrode is an extremely small electrode with a tip which is capable of being inserted into the wall of a single cell without causing damage. Microelectrodes have a number of uses and potential applications, and several variations have been designed in laboratory environments all over the world. Numerous tests of microelectrodes on various subjects have also been conducted, demonstrating some of their potential applications.
Electrodes are devices designed to conduct electricity. In the case of a microelectrode, the device is made from glass and filled with a conductive solution. It is also possible to insert a small silver wire for applications in which a metal electrical contact is desired. By measuring the electricity which passes through the electrode, people can collect data. At its simplest, a microelectrode can be used to do something like measuring the electrical impulses present during the resting and active states of cells, but the device can also be used to make measurements of pH, dissolved oxygen, and other substances.
With the use of a microelectrode or an array of microelectrodes, researchers can gather all sorts of data about living organisms. By inserting these devices into a living organism and leaving them in place, people can record information, and the microelectrodes can also be used to transmit information. The development of such tiny electrodes makes things like brain-machine interfaces possible, as an array could potentially be implanted in the brain and used to communicate with a device outside the body. Microelectrode arrays can also be used for things like controlling prostheses.
In addition to being very useful for the study of living organisms, these devices have some other potentially interesting applications. In flexible electronic devices where larger electrodes might be at risk of breaking or failing, microelectrodes could be used instead. These tiny electrodes can also be utilized in devices which are designed to be as small or miniaturized as possible, allowing manufacturers to develop increasingly portable devices.
Manufacturing microelectrodes is challenging, as it requires the use of very precise equipment which can work on detailed, small tasks. Some manufacturers have had success with three-dimensional printing, using the printers to produce microelectrodes of a standardized size and design. It is also possible to fabricate these devices by hand, or to convert more conventional manufacturing equipment for the purpose of making microelectrodes. Researchers who work with these devices may choose to fabricate their own so that they can experiment with new construction techniques and materials.