Biocompatibility implications of polypyrrole synthesis techniques

John M. Fonner, Leandro Forciniti, Hieu Nguyen, James D. Byrne, Yann Fuu Kou, Jeja Syeda-Nawaz, Christine E. Schmidt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

156 Scopus citations


Polypyrrole (PPy) is an inherently conducting polymer that has shown great promise for biomedical applications within the nervous system. However, to effectively use PPy as a biomaterial implant, it is important to understand and reproducibly control the electrical properties, physical topography and surface chemistry of the polymer. Although there is much research published on the use of PPy in various applications, there is no systematic study linking the methodologies used for PPy synthesis to PPy's basic polymeric properties (e.g., hydrophilicity, surface roughness), and to the biological effects these properties have on cells. Electrochemically synthesized PPy films differ greatly in their characteristics depending on synthesis parameters such as dopant, substrate and thickness, among other parameters. In these studies, we have used three dopants (chloride (Cl), tosylate (ToS), polystyrene sulfonate (PSS)), two substrates (gold and indium tin oxide-coated glass), and a range of thicknesses, to measure and compare the biomedically important characteristics of surface roughness, contact angle, conductivity, dopant stability and cell adhesion (using PC-12 cells and Schwann cells). As predicted, we discovered large differences in roughness depending on the dopant used and the thickness of the film, while substrate choice had little effect. From contact angle measurements, PSS was found to yield the most hydrophilic material, most likely because of free charges from the long PSS chains exposed on the surface of the PPy. ToS-doped PPy films were tenfold more conductive than Cl- or PSS-doped films. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy studies were used to evaluate dopant concentrations of PPy films stored in water and phosphate buffered saline over 14 days, and conductance studies over the same timeframe measured electrical stability. PSS proved to be the most stable dopant, though all films experienced significant decay in conductivity and dopant concentration. Cell adhesion studies demonstrated the dependence of cell outcome on film thickness and dopant choice. The strengths and weaknesses of different synthesis parameters, as demonstrated by these experiments, are critical design factors that must be leveraged when designing biomedical implants. The results of these studies should provide practical insight to researchers working with conducting polymers, and particularly PPy, on the relationships between synthesis parameters, polymeric properties and biological compatibility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number034124
JournalBiomedical Materials
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering


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