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3D ultrasonic imaging gets boost with MEMS

11 Jun 2014  | Julien Happich

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After proving the concept using 1D CMUT arrays, the researcher is working on the fabrication of 2D arrays. Depending on their designs, these 2D arrays could be used to perform accurate 3D mapping and spatial exploration at room level or even inside patients.

"The word 'accurate' should be defined here. Low frequency signals (<1MHz) usually reach distances in the order of metres and are best suited for air borne ultrasound. Frequencies that are in the order of 10MHz, only penetrate a few centimetres," told us Unamuno. "On the other side, higher frequencies allow for a better resolution than lower frequencies. It is a trade-off."

So, how fast could imaging be performed?

Probing different spatial points (serially one after the other) could be an option, but it is also possible to send a single acoustic pulse and receive all the echoes, then post-process and synthesise the images. Using so-called time-reversal processing, Dr Mathias Fink from the Langevin Institute reported acquisition speeds up to 10,000 image frames per second.

With Fraunhofer IPMS' in-house clean room capacity to reliably fabricate application specific CMUT arrays in small to mid-volumes, the researcher hopes to take CMUTs out of the lab into real life applications. These could range from intra-vascular ultrasound (IVUS) imaging to non-destructive materials testing, to gas and chemical sensors.


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