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18 August 2010

High Definition Diagnostic Ultrasonics on the Nanoscale

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Scientists and Engineers at The University of Nottingham have built the world's smallest ultrasonic transducers capable of generating and detecting ultrasound

These revolutionary transducers which are orders of magnitude smaller than current systems -- are so tiny that up to 500 of the smallest ones could be placed across the width of one human hair.

While at an early stage these devices offer a myriad of possibilities for imaging and measuring at scales a thousand times smaller than conventional ultrasonics. They can be made so small they could be placed inside cells to perform intracellular ultrasonics. They can produce ultrasound of such a high frequency that its wavelength is smaller than that of visible light. Theoretically they make it possible for ultrasonic images to take finer pictures than the most powerful optical microscopes.

The work, by the Applied Optics Group in the Division of Electrical Systems and Optics has been deemed so potentially innovative that last year it was awarded a £850,000 five year Platform Grant by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to develop advanced ultrasonic techniques. The team has also been supported by additional funding of £350,000 from an EPSRC grant to underpin aerospace research.

Matt Clark, of the Applied Optics Group, said: "With the rise of nanotechnology you need more powerful diagnostic tools, especially ones that can operate non-destructively and ones which can be used to access the mechanical and chemical properties of the samples at this scale. These new transducers are hugely exciting and bring the power of ultrasonics to the nanoscale."


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