Conventional electronic ultrasound devices are bulky and come with several disadvantages including the inability to work in line with today’s modern solutions. With a vision to bring in advancements in this field, researchers at University College London, UK, developed an innovative ultrasound system that uses optical components. Unlike the traditional system that uses electronic components, the new system offers improved performance while offering significantly more flexibility in the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions.
Moreover, using the optical components allows the safe usage of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to provide higher clarity images of the required tissues. The advanced optical ultrasound system seamlessly integrates light beam scanning mirrors to enhance image quality and enable picture acquisition in various modes. It combines optical ultrasound generating materials, ultrasound source geometries, and a fiber-optic ultrasound detector to offer the highest possible clarity of images. This provides significant advantages for the clinicians. While acquiring various image types using conventional ultrasound systems needs separate probes and modes, the new device allows doctors to rapidly toggle between multiple modes within a single instrument to suit the task at hand.
Traditional image sensors use an array of electronic transducers, which transmits high-frequency sound wave into the tissues, and then receive the reflections. A computer-based software then constructs images of the tissues with the available input of reflections. In contrast, all-optical ultrasound imagers depend on light for both transmitting and receiving ultrasound waves. To generate ultrasound waves, a pulsed laser light is used and the built-in scanning mirrors control the wave transmission to tissues. A fiber optic sensor receives the reflected waves.
The use of electronic components as the base of traditional sensors makes it difficult to miniaturize them for internal use. That is the reason why most of the existing ultrasound devices are large or handheld probes that are placed against the skin. Even though high-resolution minimally invasive ultrasound probes are being developed, they are considerably costly for routine clinical use. The newly developed devices can be seamlessly miniaturized and are significantly less expensive to manufacture than compact electronic ultrasound systems.
The advanced optical components can be easily miniaturized. This offers the potential to create a minimally invasive probe. In addition, the scanning mirror enables acquisition of images in different modes, and also to rapidly switch between various modes without any probe swapping. The light source can be dynamically adjusted for generating both low and high frequency sound for generating higher-resolution images at a shallower depth.