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Chapter: Medical Electronics : Electro-Physiology and Bio-Potential Recording

Bio Potential Electrodes

If electrode has same material as cation, then this material gets oxidized and enters the electrolyte as a cation a nd electrons remain at the electrode and flow in the external circuit.


Electrode – Electrolyte Interface     

General Ionic Equations

C<->Cn+ +ne-      

Am-<->A +me -    


•        If electrode has same material as cation, then this material gets oxidized and enters the electrolyte as a cation a nd electrons remain at the electrode and flow in the external circuit.

•        If anion can be oxidized at the electrode to form a neutral atom, one or two electrons are given to the electrode


The dominating reaction can be inferred from the following :


·        Current flow from electrode to electrolyte : Oxidation (Loss of e-)


·        Current flow from electrolyte to electrode : Reduction (Gain of e-)

Half Cell Potential


·        A characteristic potential difference established by the electrode and its surrounding electrolyte which depends on the metal, concentration of ions in solution and temperature.

Half cell potential cannot be measured without a second electrode.


·        The half cell potential of the standard hydrogen electrode has been arbitrarily set to zero. Other half cell potentials are expressed as a potential difference with this electrode.


Reason for Half Cell Potential : Charge Separation at Interface


·        Oxidation or reduction reactions at the electrode-electrolyte interface lead to a double-charge layer, similar t o that which exists along electrically active biological cell membranes.


Measuring Half Cell Potential



·   If there is a current between the electrode and electrolyte, the observed half cell potential is often altered due to polarization.


Nernst Equation


·        When two aqueous ionic solutions of different concentration are separated by an ion-selective semi-permeable membrane, an electric potential exists across the membrane.


The Nernst equation for half cell potential is E=E0 + R T/n[acyad/ aAαaBβ]



E0 : Standard Half Cell Potential 

E : Half Cell Potential

a : Ionic Activity (generally same as concentration)

n : Number of valence electrons involved


Polarizable and Non-Polarizab le Electrodes


Perfectly Polarizable Electrodes: These are electrodes in which no actual charge crosses the electrode-electrolyte interface when a current is applied. The current across the interface is a displacement current and the electrode behaves like a capacitor. Example : Ag/AgCl Electrode


Perfectly Non-Polarizable Electrode: These are electrodes where current passes freely across the electrode-electrolyte interface, requiring no energy to make the transition.


Over potentials. Example : Platinum electrode

Example: Ag-AgCl is used in recording while Pt is use in stimulation

Cd   : capacitance of electrode-eletrolyte interface

Rd   : resistance of electrode-eletrolyte interface

Rs     : resistance of electrode lead wire

Ecell  : cell potential for electrode


Electrode Skin Interface


Motion Artifact


·        When the electrode moves with respect to the electrolyte, the distribution of the double layer of charge on polarizable electrode interface changes. This changes the half cell potential temporarily.


·        If a pair of electrodes is in an electrolyte and one moves with respect to the other, a potential difference appears across the electrodes known as the motion artifact. This is a source of noise and interference in biopotential measurements.Motion artifact is minimal for non-polarizable electrodes


Body Surface Recording Electrodes

Commonly Used Biopotential Electrodes

Metal Plate Electrodes are


1.       Suction Electrodes

2.     Floating Electrodes

3.     Flexible Electrodes


Metal plate electrodes


–  Large surface: Ancient, therefore still used, ECG


–  Metal disk with stainless steel; platinum or gold coated


–  smaller diameters

–  motion artifacts

–  Disposable foam-pad: Cheap!


Suction electrodes


-           No straps or adhesives required

-           precordial (chest) ECG

-           can only be used for short periods



Floating electrodes


-         metal disk is recessed

-           swimming in the electrolyte gel

-           not in contact with the skin

-           reduces motion artifact


Flexible electrodes


-           Body contours are often irregular

-           Regularly shaped rigid electrodes may not always work.


-           Special case : infants

-           Material :

-  Polymer or nylon with silver

-  Carbon filled  silicon rubber (Mylar film)

(a)Carbon-filled silicon e rubber electrode. 

(b)Flexible thin-film neonatal electrode.

(c) Cross-sectional view of the thin-film electrode in (b).


Electrodes in Biopotential Measurements


         to make the electrode cheaper


           more suitable for lower noise measurement for EEG


           circumvent patents that are based on plastic/foam electrode body


           attractive to consumers for use with their ECG machines at home


           reduce artifact (minimize the motion of skin/electrode) in ambulatory recording


In a research laboratory, scientists want to record from single cells in a culture dish. They want to record action potentials from single, isolated heart cells. What kind of electrode would they need to use (describe material and design)? Give a simplified schematic (circuit model of the electrode) described in the notes given to you.


Neural electrodes/microelectrodes


It is used to measure potential within asingla cell.It is small in diameter and during insertion of microelectrode into cell will not damage to human cell.


·        It is classified into

1.     Metallic


2.     Non metallic(Micropipet)


Metallic Electrode


·        It is formed by electrolytically etching the tip of fine tungsten filament stainless wire into a minute structure.


·        Potential within the cell can be measured by using two electrodes


1. Micro electrode, 2. Reference electrode.

Non Metallic (Micropipet)


·        It is used to measure the potential within the single cell using non metallic material is used.


·        It is filled within an electrolyte ,that is compatible with the cellular fluids.

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