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Ultra-Precise Ultrasound Sensors on Chip

Ultra-Precise Ultrasound Sensors on Chip

Researchers from University of Queensland developed cavity optomechanical ultrasound sensing in which dual optical and mechanical resonances enhance the ultrasound signal

Ultrasound sensors are used in various applications across science and technology. Improved sensitivity is needed for both miniaturization and increased spatial resolution in sensors. Now, a team of researchers from University of Queensland developed cavity optomechanical ultrasound sensing in which dual optical and mechanical resonances improve strength of ultrasound signal. The team combined modern nanofabrication and nanophotonics techniques to build the ultraprecise ultrasound sensors on a silicon chip. According to Professor Warwick Bowen, from UQ's Precision Sensing Initiative and the Australian Centre for Engineered Quantum Systems, the findings can facilitate development of exciting new technologies.

Using a microscale silicon-chip-based sensor, the team achieved noise equivalent pressures with the sensitivity that exceeded similar sensors that use an optical resonance alone. Moreover, the pressure was normalized to the sensing area and surpassed previous air-coupled ultrasound sensors by several orders of magnitude. Collisions from molecules in the gas within which the acoustic wave propagates dominate the noise floor. According to the researchers, this approach of acoustic sensing can be used in various applications such as biomedical diagnostics, autonomous navigation, trace gas sensing, and scientific exploration of the metabolism-induced-vibrations of single cells. Professor Warwick Bowen stated that the research is a major step forward as accurate ultrasound measurement is critical for a range of applications.

Ultrasound is used for medical ultrasound in applications such as examining pregnant women and high resolution biomedical imaging to detect tumors and other anomalies. It is also used for spatial applications such as in the sonar imaging of underwater objects or in the navigation of unmanned aerial vehicles. Improvement of ultrasound technology requires smaller, higher precision sensors. The team was able to measure ultrasound waves that apply micro forces. According to the researchers, the new technology sensitive enough to hear the miniscule random forces from surrounding air molecules and can be used to listen to the sound emitted by living bacteria and cells. This in turn is expected to fundamentally improve understanding regarding the functioning of small biological systems. The research was published in the journal Nature Communications on January 10, 2019.


Rajkumar Bisen
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