The short answer is: TRANSDUCER
What makes a sophisticated ultrasound system?
When people think of medical ultrasound, the first thing that comes to mind is often the part you have direct contact with – a transducer (or a probe). It’s a connection between you and what you want to find out about your body. This hand-held device converts electrical signals into ultrasonic signals and vice versa, then the host processes and displays the signal received from the transducer.
When a transducer is at work, it transmits a set of ultrasonic waves toward human body. The object absorbs and attenuates the waves as well as reflect back at various degrees. By keeping track of the arrival time and strength of the echoes, the host will be able to process the distance to and characteristic of the targeted area then, at last, present what you see on the monitor. That’s why ultrasound imaging largely lies in the quality and technology of the transducer. So, what makes a good transducer?
A cross-disciplinary technology
Modern transducers are made of layers of materials with complex and sophisticated structures. The tiny core of a 5-centimeter transducer includes hundreds of array elements and a combination of sound-absorbing material, sound-transmitting material, and sound-insulating material, etc. But there’s more to it yet. This mix of materials, referred as multi-material design, pursues an optimum transmission balance of sound waves.
The acoustic matching layer is to make sure that the ultrasonic waves effectively enter the object. It needs to be controlled precisely to allow the piezoelectric material-generated acoustic wave to propagate to the medium(typically water) with high sensitivity and broad bandwidth.
“One challenge was to reduce the matching layer thickness down to tens of micrometers with an accuracy of a few micrometers. We researched dozens of materials and technologies to make that happen. We also managed to increase the absorption of backing material over 100% after tests on hundreds of samples made by our own formula”, noted by a chief scientist at SonoScape.
The transducer gene
From piezoelectric ceramic processing to sound field tests, SonoScape has been dedicated to improving and innovating transducer material, besides new manufacturing methods.
In 2016, SonoScape released China's first domestically- engineered single crystal transducer. Unlike traditional material, the lattice of a single crystal is continuous and unbroken to the edges, with no grain boundaries which is perfect for electrical-mechanical energy conversion. It takes continuous perseverance to focus on the details that matter. The specialists and scientists at SonoScape engineering department are currently innovating technologies to provide an even wider selection, more cost-effective and higher quality transducers.
Add to the above that, its manufacturing center produces the most diversified transducers of more than 100 different types, as well as customization options, meeting clinical needs all over the world. “The transducers from SonoScape are durable, versatile and cost-effective while providing exceptional image quality”, commented by Dr. Hussam, an end-user who has been using SonoScape transducers over the past 10 years.
Perfection for precision
Another innovation that makes the production of a transducer up to high standard is performance test. As the first FDA approved transducer testing center in China, only the most skillful craftsperson who can perform at a high level of concentration is capable of assembling and testing transducers.
The hand-held part of a transducer is delicate and requires almost completely handmade effort throughout the manufacturing process. The layers wielding of a piezoelectric ceramic transducer has strict requirements on the timing, temperature, and pressure, to make sure every solder joint of the signal wire and piezoelectric ceramic is solid and infiltrated.
“Protecting the system against tampering was a key consideration when we test it,” says a production manager at SonoScape. Apart from the routine tests of array sensitivity, pulse, frequency, and bandwidth, the assessment also adopts tissue-like body membranes and blood flow control systems to adjust the specifications to the actual working environment.
All things considered, SonoScape never ceased in innovating technologies to the exact clinical need. The laparoscopic ultrasound developed by SonoScape made microwave ablation available for liver cancer treatment. It’s real-time, high definition and has a 360-degree angle that misses no spot during liver scanning.
“We are able to see the lesion clearly with SonoScape laparoscopic ultrasound, even the small ones. It plays a significant role in treating difficult cases as well as being used in teaching purposes”, said a Professor Doctor from Hangzhou Hospital Oncological Surgery Center.