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Ultrasound diagnostics resembles sonar work. Using high-frequency ultrasonic beam generator, diagnostic system produces and sends sound waves to the area that is to be examined. Reflecting from the internal organs, their tissues and vessels, the waves change their properties; the ultrasonic device captures it and automatically converts to a graphic image.

Limited capabilities of a standard ultrasound machine

Ultrasound imaging is possible due to the acoustic waves that penetrate through the muscle tissues and organs. However they are unable to penetrate through the bones and metal, that’s why ultrasound equipment capabilities are limited. Solid materials, such as surgical metal plates and human bones block ultrasound beam, strongly distorting waves. In medicine, such materials are called aberrant layers.

The scientists from the University of North Carolina have created a fundamentally new ultrasound machine

Engineers have been struggling with the problem of aberrant layers for a long time, trying to develop technology that will be able to bypass physical characteristics of aberrant materials and allow aberrant ultrasonic radiation to penetrate through the metal objects and bones. The first to achieve significant results in this area were employees of the American University of North Carolina. Scientists have managed to create a structure from metamaterials, which will greatly enhance the effectiveness of ultrasound.

Scientists from North Carolina offer to use a unique metamaterial that has a tubular structure and membranes with a single-piece way given properties that can neutralize the absorbent layer effect by multiple amplification of the acoustic signal. “We have invented a unique metamaterial that allows sonographers to significantly expand the application area of ultrasonic devices in ultrasound diagnostics and therapeutic practice. We will be able to evaluate blood flow in different brain regions and to timely identify cancer tumors using conventional ultrasound machine,” says Terry Chen Shen, research process leader and postgraduate student of the University of North Carolina. “It hasn’t seemed to be possible till now, because cranial bones didn’t allow ultrasound waves to penetrate inside without distortion of the rendered image!"


Conventional ultrasound machine has been improved by means of metamaterials

Computer simulation results of innovative metamaterials, intended for use in ultrasonic sensors has shown phenomenal results, - the use of conventional sensors showed that only 28% of the acoustic waves pass through the large bones, while equipment with metamaterials provided a signal passability with 88% of frequency. In the words of study co-author, Dr. Yun Jing, it’squite enough to overcome the aberrant layer. “The technology will be demanded for diagnostic imaging and therapeutic purposes. With its help, brain tumor diagnosis will be much simpler,” said the expert.

Scientists hope that this promising development will get the support, as with its help, not only stationary ultrasound device, but industrial scanners will work as well, particularly in aerospace engineering.

Olexiy Stahiv, doctor, BiMedis Company