The breakthrough discovery of a nanoscale optically gated ion channel protein, Channelrhodopsin 2 (ChR2), and its combination with a genetically expressed ion pump, Halorhodopsin, allowed the direct stimulation and inhibition of individual action potentials with light alone. This work reports developments of ultra-bright elec tronically controlled optical array sources with enhanced light gated ion channels and pumps for use in systems to further our understanding of both brain and visual function. This work is undertaken as part of the European project, OptoNeuro.
Micro-LED arrays permit spatio-temporal control of neuron stimulation on sub-millisecond timescales. However they are disadvantaged by their broad spatial light emission distribution and low fill factor. We present the design and implementation of a projection and micro-optics system for use with a micro-LED array consisting of a 16x16 matrix of 25 μm diameter micro-LEDs with 150 μm centre-to-centre spacing and an emission spectrum centred at 470 nm overlapping the peak sensitivity of ChR2 and its testing on biological samples. The projection system images the micro-LED array onto micro-optics to improve the fill-factor from ~2% to more than 78% by capturing a larger fraction of the LED emission and directing it correctly to the sample plane. This approach allows low fill factor arrays to be used effectively, which in turn has benefits in terms of thermal management and electrical drive from CMOS backplane electronics. The entire projection system is integrated into a microscope prototype to provide stimulation spots at the same size as the neuron cell body (μ10 pm).