Piezoelectric crystals are the key ingredient in many kinds of sensors that detect vibrations, and can be found in underwater sonars and medical ultrasound imaging systems.The crystals’ performance can be dramatically improved, according to a team of researchers at Xi'an Jiaotong University in China, by adding trace amounts of a rare-earth element.Piezoelectric materials can convert mechanical oscillations to electrical signals and vice versa.Currently, the most advanced piezoelectric devices often use a perovskite oxide crystal known as PMN-PT, which outperforms other common piezoelectric materials by roughly a factor of three in terms of efficiency.However, despite much research, progress toward improving the performance of these crystals has been slow over the past two decades, researchers say.Now scientists have discovered that introducing relatively minuscule amounts of samarium into PMN-PT—adding about one atom per thousand atoms of the parent crystals—could greatly enhance its performance.
Researchers at The University of Queensland have combined modern nanofabrication* and nanophotonics* techniques to build the ultraprecise ultrasound sensors on a silicon chip.Professor Warwick Bowen, from UQ's Precision Sensing Initiative and the Australian Centre for Engineered Quantum Systems, said the development could usher in a host of exciting new technologies."This is a major step forward, since accurate ultrasound measurement is critical for a range of applications," he said."Ultrasound is used for medical ultrasound, often to examine pregnant women, as well as for high resolution biomedical imaging to detect tumours and other anomalies."It's also commonly used for spatial applications, like in the sonar imaging of underwater objects or in the navigation of unmanned aerial vehicles.The technology is so sensitive that it can hear, for the first time, the miniscule random forces from surrounding air molecules.
With its abundance of companies promising to help you stay fit, eat healthier or measure your [insert whatever biometric reading here] more accurately, this year's CES evolved to be more like a MedTech conference instead.There are an estimated 74 million Baby Boomers in the US (people born roughly between the end of World War II and the mid-1960s), and tech companies are eager to help the elderly and those with physical or non-visible disabilities live independently and comfortably.Younger people born between the early 1980s through early 2000s (commonly known as "Millennials") are more anxious and depressed than previous generations, meanwhile, which explains the plethora of lifestyle and self-care gadgets at CES claiming to help them relax, sleep better and have smoother skin.Nevertheless, these products were still compelling and give a glimpse of what's to come in the tech industry -- anxieties and all.The EyeQue VisionCheck is a Bluetooth-powered portable device that conducts vision tests at home with an app.Though continual and constant health monitoring sounds a bit Big Brother, it's useful for those who are at high risk of a medical emergency.
Using the Butterfly iQ handheld ultrasound wand and an iPhone, you could take your own ultrasound as your doctor analyzes the imagery in real time during a video chat.At CES 2019 I saw this technology in action for myself, watching someone scan their own heart and talk with their doctor.But this isn't a typical CES show for me.I'm walking around the halls five months pregnant, so I was especially fascinated to learn more about a personal ultrasound machine.But the Butterfly team is beta testing software to take tele-medicine to the next logical step: real-time analysis from anywhere with your doctor.And if someone isn't trained in how to do a proper ultrasound, Butterfly also demonstrated AI-infused software that can help guide someone to capture the image correctly, so the file could be sent to an expert to analyze.
Engineers at the University of British Columbia have developed a new ultrasound transducer, or probe, that could dramatically lower the cost of ultrasound scanners to as little as $100.Their patent-pending innovation--no bigger than a Band-Aid--is portable, wearable and can be powered by a smartphone.Conventional ultrasound scanners use piezoelectric crystals to create images of the inside of the body and send them to a computer to create sonograms.Researchers replaced the piezoelectric crystals with tiny vibrating drums made of polymer resin, called polyCMUTs (polymer capacitive micro-machined ultrasound transducers), which are cheaper to manufacture."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," said study lead author Carlos Gerardo, a PhD candidate in electrical and computer engineering at UBC."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."
A new, painless, non-invasive procedure that harnesses ultrasound technology to reposition kidney stones, in an effort to offer the sufferer quick relief, will undergo testing in emergency patients.Kidney stones are an increasingly common condition that affects 1 in 11 Americans during their lifetime.The condition is even more frequently encountered in astronauts during space missions.Funding has been provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and the Department of Defense's Surgical Research Institute.After the invention of an ultrasound device to better detect kidney stones, engineers from the Applied Physics Laboratory at the University of Washington observed that they could accurately reposition small objects with ultrasound on a laboratory table.In conjunction with partners in the UW School of Medicine urology, emergency medicine, and radiology departments, the researchers went on to advance the technology and to use the same waves from a hand held ultrasound transducer to re-locate kidney stones in preliminary tests.
Researchers have developed a device that reflects sound in the direction it came from, rather than deflecting it at an angle.The "retroreflector" can reflect sound across an operating range of 70 degrees in either direction - more than doubling the effective range of previous technologies."The technology makes use of two engineered materials," says Yun Jing, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at North Carolina State University and co-corresponding author of a paper on the work."The first layer focuses the incoming sound waves onto a second layer, which then sends the sound waves back to their source.We were inspired by a similar approach used in optics research, but we think we are the first to use this technique in the acoustics field."Previous techniques for creating retroreflective surfaces relied on rectangular pits arrayed across a material.
Researchers of the laboratory "Medical ultrasound equipment" of Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University (SPbPU) developed a high-tech device-transformer for ultrasound examination, named "Ultrasound mobile".The new equipment is the combination of three modifications in one device.Currently, each modification functions separately in the medical centers, the scientists of St. Petersburg Polytechnic University became the first who combined it into a single hardware complex.Thus instead of two types of vehicles (stationary and portable), medical institutions can use single equipment for different purposes and in different wards.For example, in the inpatient hospitals, doctors will be able to do a high-precision study using the full configuration of the equipment.At the same time in the admission hospital ward or emergency room, where the speed of decisions is important, the mobile version of the equipment will be useful.
Researchers have developed a stretchable, flexible patch that could make it easier to perform ultrasound imaging on odd-shaped structures, such as engine parts, turbines, reactor pipe elbows and railroad tracks--objects that are difficult to examine using conventional ultrasound equipment.Conventional ultrasound probes have flat and rigid bases, which can't maintain good contact when scanning across curved, wavy, angled and other irregular surfaces.That's a considerable limitation, said Sheng Xu, a professor of nanoengineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering and the study's corresponding author."Elbows, corners and other structural details happen to be the most critical areas in terms of failure--they are high stress areas," said Francesco Lanza di Scalea, a professor of structural engineering at UC San Diego and co-author of the study.Now, a UC San Diego-led team has developed a soft ultrasound probe that can work on odd-shaped surfaces without water, gel or oil.This is essentially an array of small electronic parts (islands) that are each connected by spring-like structures (bridges).
Development of a theoretical basis for ultrahigh piezoelectricity in ferroelectric materials led to a new material with twice the piezo response of any existing commercial ferroelectric ceramics, according to an international team of researchers from Penn State, China and Australia.Piezoelectricity is the material property at the heart of medical ultrasound, sonar, active vibration control and many sensors and actuators.A piezoelectric material has the ability to mechanically deform when an electric voltage is applied or to generate electric charge when a mechanical force is applied.Adding small amounts of a carefully selected rare earth material, samarium, to a high-performance piezoelectric ceramic called lead magnesium niobate-lead titanate (PMN-PT) dramatically increases its piezo performance, the researchers report in Nature Materials this week."The majority of existing useful materials are discovered by trial-and-error experiments.But here we designed and synthesized a new piezoelectric ceramic guided by theory and simulations."
Elliptic Labs has been showing off a new application for its ultrasound-based gesture technology at MWC in Barcelona, and we caught up with the company to get a demo.Using a prototype consisting of a speaker with Amazon’s Alexa onboard and a Raspberry Pi, Elliptic Labs showed us how you can trigger Alexa with a double tap palm gesture or cut it off in mid-flow with a single palm tap.The gestures can work from some distance away, allowing you to control your smart speaker without having to touch it or utter a word.If you’re unfamiliar with Elliptic Labs, we met up with the company a couple of years back when it first began to roll its ultrasound gestures out into phones.The hope was that ultrasound might replace proximity sensors in phones and the technology was subsequently integrated into Xiaomi’s Mi Mix handsets, allowing the manufacturer to shrink the bezels right down.With more microphones, Elliptic Labs tech can detect more specific gestures or positioning.
For women living in rural locations in Ghana, portable ultrasounds may be a useful tool in preventing pregnancy complications.Although the World Health Organization recommends that pregnant women have at least four antenatal care visits and skilled attendants at birth, many pregnant women in rural communities in low-income countries do not meet these recommendations.Researchers affiliated with the University of Ghana, African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, ETH Zurich, and Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia recently published the results of their 11-month pilot study.The aim of the study, which focused on 323 women from four rural communities in the Central Region of Ghana, was to increase the number of antenatal care visits, reduce home deliveries, and supplement care given by antenatal clinics.They tested a system of care based on low-cost mobile phones and portable ultrasound scan machines in the pilot.In each community, at least one community health worker was trained and equipped with a mobile phone to promote antenatal and hospital deliveries.
A bezel-free iPhone has been the dream of Apple fans for many years, but the company may soon be ready to make the idea a reality.A new patent filed by Apple shows technology allowing the Touch ID fingerprint sensor to be included within the display rather than on a bezel at the bottom of the phone.The latest patent focuses on ultrasonic imaging tech that would allow for a more accurate reading than the current capacitive sensor you'd find on the iPhone 6S or iPhone 6S Plus.Accuracy and easeThe patent reads, "In this type of sensor, two transducers are placed on the x- and y-axes of a plate of glass–one each for receiving and transmitting–for propagating ultrasound waves through a glass plate; when the finger is placed on top of the glass, the finger impedes the waves and the receiving transducer can measure the alteration in wave patterns."This type of scanner is very new and largely untested in a variety of conditions, but initial results show promise for the technology.Bringing the fingerprint sensor into the screen would also free up the space at the bottom of the phone and allow Apple to extend the display further down for a truly innovative looking iPhone.