NC State researchers create ultrasound prototype at fraction of conventional costs

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Research coming out of N.C. State University could redefine ultrasound technology at just a fraction of the conventional costs, and the researchers are looking for industry partners to move it along.

This month, researchers at the university published a new paper, “Direct Acoustic Imaging using a Piezoelectric Organic Light-Emitting Diode,” in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

The paper details proof-of-concept testing of a new technique for creating ultrasound technology the researchers have developed. While traditional ultrasound devices have to convert the ultrasonic waves they detect in an electric signal into an image via a computer, the new method essentially eliminates the middle step.

According to the paper, the new technique relies on “a novel ultrasonic imaging device” that can “optically display an acoustic signal on the surface of a piezoelectric transducer.”

In other words, the researcher can fabricate an organic light-emitting diode (OLED) so that when the ultrasonic waves interact with the diode, it causes it to light up, producing the image.

The paper’s first author is Hyeonggeun Yu, a former post-doctoral researcher at the university who has since joined the Korea Institute of Science and Technology. Co-authors of the paper include Jinwook Kim and Howuk Kim, who are former doctoral students at N.C state, and by Nilesh Barange, a former post-doctoral researcher.

According to Franky So, an N.C. State professor of material sciences and engineering and co-corresponding author of the study, the initial prototype can “easily” be scaled up.

“Our prototype is a proof-of-concept, so we designed it with an OLED array that is 10 pixels by 10 pixels; the resolution isn’t great,” he said in a prepared statement. “However, I can easily make it 500 pixels by 500 pixels, boosting the resolution substantially.”

Doing so could be a huge windfall for ultrasound technology and accessibility. According to So, the new technique means they can make ultrasound receiver units for “$100 or so.” He estimates conventional imaging probes “can cost upwards of $100,000.”

“This is really a completely new field for ultrasound, so we’re only beginning to explore the potential applications,” said Xiaoning Jiang, a professor at the university and another co-corresponding author.

To find those potential applications and further develop the technology, the university says that the research team is “interested in collaborating with industry partners” to “explore commercial applications.”

Original Article Source: Triangle Business Journal