Engineers at the University of British Columbia have developed a new ultrasound transducer that could drastically reduce the cost of ultrasound scanners at just $ 100 per unit.
Its innovation, pending patent, and no larger than a band aid, can be powered by a simple smartphone.
Conventional ultrasound scanners use piezoelectric crystals to create images inside the body and send them to a computer to create sonograms. Researchers have replaced piezoelectric crystals with tiny vibrating drums made of polymeric resin, called polyCMUT (micro-machined ultrasound transducers with capacitive polymers), which are cheaper to manufacture.
Since this transducer needs only ten volts to operate, it can be powered by a smartphone, so it is suitable for use in remote locations or difficult access without connection to the mains. And unlike rigid ultrasound probes, it has the potential to be constructed of a flexible material that can be wrapped around the body for easier scanning and more detailed views, without drastically increasing costs.
According to the study co-author Robert Rohling, professor of electrical and computer engineering, about the future uses of this technology:
These transducers will be miniaturized and used to look inside arteries and veins. You could stick them on your chest and keep track of your heart in your daily life. It opens many different possibilities.