Researchers at the University of British Columbia have now come up with a new ultrasound transducer that effectively the size of a band-aid. This new technology is set to bring down the price of ultrasound scanners to as little as $100. This new device can be worn and can even be powered by a smartphone. Though the technology is still waiting for the patents committee to certify it.
In comparison conventional ultrasound scanners create their images of the insides of the body using piezoelectric crystals and send over those to the computer to be transformed into a sonogram. University of British Columbia reports that UBC researcher used polymer resin based tiny drums to replace the piezoelectric crystals. This new polymer resin is called polyCMUTs or polymer capacitive micro-machined ultrasound transducers which is costs substantially less to manufacture.
Carlos Gerardo, who is a PhD candidate in electrical and computer engineering at UBC is the study lead on the topic says, “Transducer drums have typically been made out of rigid silicon materials that require costly, environment-controlled manufacturing processes, and this has hampered their use in ultrasound.”
“By using polymer resin, we were able to produce polyCMUTs in fewer fabrication steps, using a minimum amount of equipment, resulting in significant cost savings,” he adds.
Edmond Cretu, who is the co-author of the paper and a professor of electrical and computer engineering at UBC says that the sonograms produced by their device was just as sharp as the traditional sonograms that use piezoelectric transducers, if not more.
“Since our transducer needs just 10 volts to operate, it can be powered by a smartphone, making it suitable for use in remote or low-power locations,” he added. “And unlike rigid ultrasound probes, our transducer has the potential to be built into a flexible material that can be wrapped around the body for easier scanning and more detailed views–without dramatically increasing costs.”
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Co-author Robert Rohling, who is also a professor of electrical and computer engineering said that this technology can be miniaturized to look inside even the arteries and veins of the body.