Silicon-based nanoporous particles as biodegradable drug carriers are advantageous in permeation, controlled release, and targeting. The use of biodegradable nanoporous silicon and silicon dioxide, with proper surface treatments, allows sustained drug release within the target site over a period of days, or even weeks, due to selective surface coating. A variety of surface treatment protocols are available for silicon-based particles to be stabilized, functionalized, or modified as required. Coated polyethylene glycol (PEG) chains showed the effective depression of both plasma protein adsorption and cell attachment to the modified surfaces, as well as the advantage of long circulating.

Porous silicon particles are micromachined by lithography. Compared to the synthesis route of the nanomaterials, the advantages include: (1) the capability to make different shapes, not only spherical particles but also square, rectangular, or ellipse cross sections, etc.; (2) the capability for very precise dimension control; (3) the capacity for porosity and pore profile control; and (4) allowance of complex surface modification. The particle patterns as small as 60 nm can be fabricated using the state-of-the-art photolithography. The pores in silicon can be fabricated by exposing the silicon in an HF/ethanol solution and then subjecting the pores to an electrical current. The size and shape of the pores inside silicon can be adjusted by the doping of the silicon, electrical current application, the composition of the electrolyte solution, and etching time.

The surface of the silicon particles can be modified by many means to provide targeted delivery and on-site permanence for extended release. Multiple active agents can be co-loaded into the particles. Because the surface modification of particles can be done on wafers before the mechanical release, asymmetrical surface modification is feasible.

Starting from silicon wafers, a treatment, such as KOH dipping or reactive-ion etching (RIE), may be applied to make the surface rough. This helps remove the nucleation layer. A protective layer is then deposited on the wafer. The protective layer, such as silicon nitride film or photoresist film, protects the wafer from electrochemical etching in an HF-based solution. A lithography technique is applied to pattern the particles onto the protective film. The undesired area of the protective film is removed, and the protective film on the back side of the wafer is also removed. Then the pattern is exposed to HF/surfactant solution, and a larger DC electrical current is applied to the wafers for a selected time. This step removes the nucleation layer. Then a DC current is applied to generate the nanopores. Next, a large electrical current is applied to generate a release layer. The particles are mechanically suspended in the solvent and collected by filtration or centrifuge.

This work was done by Mauro Ferrari and Xuewu Liu of the University of Texas Health Science Center for Johnson Space Center. For further information, contact the Johnson Technology Transfer Office at (281) 483-3809.

In accordance with Public Law 96-517, the contractor has elected to retain title to this invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its commercial use should be addressed to:

Office of Technology Management
The University of Texas Health and Science Center at Houston
7000 Fannin, Suite 720
Houston, TX 77030
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Refer to MSC-24479-1, volume and number of this NASA Tech Briefs issue, and the page number.