Published:  01:30 PM, 15 January 2019

Aussie scientists make major breakthrough in capabilities of ultrasound

Aussie scientists make major breakthrough in capabilities of ultrasound


Researchers at Australia's University of Queensland (UQ) have made a major breakthrough in ultrasound technology which they believe could greatly improve technologies, from medical imaging, to unmanned aerial vehicles.

The team described on Monday how they used modern nanofabrication and nanophotonics to make extremely precise ultrasound sensors, small enough to fit on a silicon chip.

"We've developed a near perfect ultrasound detector, hitting the limits of what the technology is capable of achieving," Prof. Warwick Bowen, from UQ's Precision Sensing Initiative, said.

"We're now able to measure ultrasound waves that apply tiny forces, comparable to the gravitational force on a virus, and we can do this with sensors smaller than a millimetre across," Bowen said.

With ultrasound being used across a range of technologies, the team believe that the development could lead to any number of exciting breakthroughs.

"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," Bowen explained.

"It's also commonly used for spatial applications, like in the sonar imaging of underwater objects or in the navigation of unmanned aerial vehicles."

Research leader Dr. Sahar Basiri-Esfahani says the accuracy of the new technology, sensitive enough to hear the random forces from surrounding air molecules, could change how scientists understand biology.

"This could fundamentally improve our understanding of how these small biological systems function," Basiri-Esfahani said.

"A deeper understanding of these biological systems may lead to new treatments, so we're looking forward to seeing what future applications emerge."

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