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Peter Grünberg Institute / Institute of Complex Systems

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Electrical cell-chip coupling

Development of new devices for extracellular recording and stimulation of electrically active cells is of great interest in many research fields. Our work focuses on the development of sensors with excellent electrical properties and the capability of recording action potentials from individual cells at highly localized resolution.

Cross section of cell-chip interface

Nanocavity electrode array

We develop sensor arrays for action potential recordings from cells. Each sensor features a microelectrode that is accessed via a nanocavity and a small aperture. This approach ensures highly localized and strong coupling of the cell to the sensor, while maintaining moderate electrode impedances.

SEM image of a focused ion beam cut showing the cell-sensor interface.

Cell-chip coupling

Nanocavity chips can be used for recording from any kind of adherent cell culture or slices. The picture shows a FIB (focused ion beam) cut through a HL-1 cell sitting on top of the sensor. The aperture and the invagination of the cell membrane are shown in the inset, revealing a tight seal at the interface.

Action potential recording and propagation on a nanocavity sensor array.

Action potential recording

Recordings from cardiomyocyte-like cells show the propagation of the action potential over the sensor array. Individual action potentials of single cells can be clearly detected and attributed to the position on the chip.

Additional Information


Jun.-Prof. Dr. Bernhard Wolfrum

Tel.:  +49-2461-61-3285


J.Cheng, G. Zhu, L. Wu, X. Du, H. Zhang, B. Wolfrum, Q. Jin, J. Zhao, A. Offenhäusser, Y. Xu: Photopatterning of self-assembled poly (ethylene) glycol monolayer for neuronal network fabrication. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 213, 196-203 (2013)


M. Wesche, M. Hüske, A. Yakushenko, D. Brüggemann, D. Mayer, A. Offenhäusser, and B. Wolfrum: A nanoporous alumina microelectrode array for functional cell-chip coupling. Nanotechnology, 42 (49), 495303 (8pp) (2012)


A. Yakushenko, J. Schnitker, and B. Wolfrum: Printed Carbon Microelectrodes for Electrochemical Detection of Single Vesicle Release from PC12 Cells. Analytical Chemistry, (2012)


M. Schottdorf, B. Hofmann, E. Kätelhön, A. Offenhäusser, and B. Wolfrum: Frequency-dependent signal transfer at the interface between electrogenic cells and nanocavity electrodes: Physical Review E, 85 (2012)



B. Hofmann, E. Kätelhön, M. Schottdorf, A. Offenhäusser, and B. Wolfrum: Nanocavity electrode array for recording from electrogenic cells. Lab Chip, 11 (2011) 1054-1058