Characterising the material properties at the interface between skin and a skin vaccination microprojection device

Michael L. Crichton, Cameron Archer-Jones, Stefano Meliga, Grant Edwards, Darren Martin, Han Huang, Mark A. F. Kendall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


The rapid emergence of micro-devices for biomedical applications over the past two decades has introduced new challenges for the materials used in the devices. Devices like microneedles and the Nanopatch, require sufficient strength to puncture skin often with sharp-slender micro-scale profiles, while maintaining mechanical integrity. For these technologies we sought to address two important questions: 1) On the scale at which the device operates, what forces are required to puncture the skin? And 2) What loads can the projections/microneedles withstand prior to failure. First, we used custom fabricated nanoindentation micro-probes to puncture skin at the micrometre scale, and show that puncture forces are ∼0.25-1.75 mN for fresh mouse skin, in agreement with finite element simulations for our device. Then, we used two methods to perform strength tests of Nanopatch projections with varied aspect ratios. The first method used a nanoindenter to apply a force directly on the top or on the side of individual silicon projections (110 μm in length, 10 μm base radius), to measure the force of fracture. Our second method used an Instron to fracture full rows of projections and characterise a range of projection designs (with the method verified against previous nanoindentation experiments). Finally, we used Cryo-Scanning Electron Microscopy to visualise projections in situ in the skin to confirm the behaviour we quantified, qualitatively. Statement of Significance Micro-device development has proliferated in the past decade, including devices that interact with tissues for biomedical outcomes. The field of microneedles for vaccine delivery to skin has opened new material challenges both in understanding tissue material properties and device material. In this work we characterise both the biomaterial properties of skin and the material properties of our microprojection vaccine delivery device. This study directly measures the micro-scale puncture properties of skin, whilst demonstrating clearly how these relate to device design. This will be of strong interest to those in the field of biomedical microdevices. This includes work in the field of wearable and semi-implantable devices, which will require clear understanding of tissue behaviour and material characterisation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-194
Number of pages9
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Publication statusPublished - May 2016


  • Material strength
  • Material testing
  • Microneedles
  • Puncture
  • Skin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology


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