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New OLED-Based Technique for Creating Ultrasound Images

Scientists at North Carolina State University have developed a new method for making ultrasound images which combines the detector and display, making it considerably simpler and cheaper than existing devices.

Image Credit: North Carolina State University.

Conventional ultrasound devices have a receiver that detects ultrasonic waves and converts them into an electrical signal, which is then sent to a computer that processes the signal and converts it into an image. We’ve created a device that effectively eliminates the electrical signal processing altogether.

Xiaoning Jiang, Study Co-Corresponding Author and Duncan Distinguished Professor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, North Carolina State University

The team has designed a receiver that includes an organic light-emitting diode (OLED) and a piezoelectric crystal. When the crystal is hit by an ultrasonic wave, it generates a voltage that lights up the OLED. That is, the image shows up on the OLED screen, which is integrated into the receiver itself.

Our prototype is a proof-of-concept, so we designed it with an OLED array that is 10 pixels by 10 pixels; the resolution isn’t great. However, I can easily make it 500 pixels by 500 pixels, boosting the resolution substantially.

Franky So, Study Co-Corresponding Author, North Carolina State University

So is the Walter and Ida Freeman Distinguished Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at NC State.

Conventional ultrasound imaging probes can cost upward of $100,000 because they contain thousands of transducer array elements, which drives up manufacturing costs. We can make ultrasound receiver-display units for $100 or so.

Franky So, Study Co-Corresponding Author, North Carolina State University

This is really a completely new field for ultrasound, so we’re only beginning to explore the potential applications,” stated Jiang. “However, there are obvious near-term applications, such as non-destructive testing, evaluation and inspections in the context of structural health monitoring.”

The team has expressed its interest in partnering with industry associates to find out commercial applications.

The first author of the paper titled “Direct Acoustic Imaging using a Piezoelectric Organic Light-Emitting Diode,” which was published in the ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces journal, is Hyeonggeun Yu, who is a former postdoctoral researcher at NC State and currently works at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology.

The study was co-authored by Jinwook Kim and Howuk Kim, who are former PhD students at NC State; and by Nilesh Barange, a former postdoctoral researcher at NC State.

Journal Reference

Yu, H., et al. (2020) Direct Acoustic Imaging Using a Piezoelectric Organic Light-Emitting Diode. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.


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