Advances in protective and restorative biotherapies have created new opportunities to use site-directed, programmable drug delivery systems to treat auditory and vestibular disorders. Successful therapy development that leverages the transgenic, knock-in, and knock-out variants of mouse models of human disease requires advanced microsystems specifically designed to function with nanoliter precision and with system volumes suitable for implantation. The present work demonstrates a novel biocompatible, implantable, and scalable microsystem consisted of a thermal phase-change peristaltic micropump with wireless control and a refillable reservoir. The micropump is fabricated around a catheter microtubing (250 μm OD, 125 μm ID) that provided a biocompatible leak-free flow path while avoiding complicated microfluidic interconnects. Direct-write micro-scale printing technology was used to build the mechanical components of the pump around the microtubing directly on the back of a printed circuit board assembly. In vitro characterization results indicated nanoliter resolution control over the desired flow rates of 10–100 nL/min by changing the actuation frequency, with negligible deviations in presence of up to 10× greater than physiological backpressures and ±3°C ambient temperature variation. A biocompatibility study was performed to evaluate material suitability for chronic subcutaneous implantation and clinical translational development. A stand-alone, refillable, in-plane, scalable, and fully implantable microreservoir platform was designed and fabricated to be integrated with the micropump. The microreservoir consists two main components: a cavity for storing the drug and a septum for refilling. The cavity membrane is fabricated with thin Parylene-C layers, using a polyethylene glycol (PEG) sacrificial layer. The septum thickness is minimized by pre-compression down to 1 mm. The results of in vitro characterization indicated negligible restoring force for the optimized cavity membrane and thousands of punctures through the septum without leakage. The micropump and microreservoir were integrated into microsystems which were implanted in mice. The microtubing was implanted into the round window membrane niche for infusion of a known ototoxic compound (sodium salicylate) at 50 nL/min for 20 min. Real-time shifts in distortion product otoacoustic emission thresholds and amplitudes were measured during the infusion. The results match with syringe pump gold standard. For the first time a miniature and yet scalable microsystem for inner ear drug delivery was developed, enabling drug discovery opportunities and translation to human.

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Microsystems Engineering (Ph.D.)

Department, Program, or Center

Microsystems Engineering (KGCOE)


David A. Borkholder

Advisor/Committee Member

Denis Cormier

Advisor/Committee Member

Vinay Abhyankar


RIT – Main Campus