Home / Blog / Wearable ultrasound sensor

Wearable ultrasound sensor

a Sixty-four-element CMUT linear array mounted on PCB. b Six CMUT elements separated by a pitch of 550 μm. c CMUT cells showing interconnected top electrodes and cavities underneath, the optical transparency of SU-8 allows a visual identification of any possible defect. Image credit: UBC – Carlos D. Gerardo

Just yesterday I was discussing at a University of Trento master course  how technology evolution is leading to disruptions in several areas. One of the areas I mentioned was health care.

In this area the sequencing of the genome is going to become a standard procedure for newborns in the next decades (and we will probably catch up…). This, in turns, will lead to an amazing wealth of data that can be mined and in perspective drugs are bound to become personalised based on that person’s genome. This is all well and good, since it comes with the promises of a much more effective cure and lack of unpleasant side-effects.

However, that pill tailored to us will not have been tested in clinical trial since it has been manufactured for us only. This brings the need of much better monitoring of its effect and of course such monitoring cannot require us to spend a week in a hospital.

A long introduction to say that we can expect a growing demand of wearable monitoring equipment, a completely new area since so far monitoring equipment have been designed to be used in a controlled environment and being bulky was not an issue.

Technology evolution, both in terms of sensors performance, low power requirement and very sophisticated signal processing, is going to provide more and more capabilities for personal monitoring.

This is where this news coming from the University of British Columbia, UBC, fits in.

Carlos D. Gerardo, a researcher at UBC -see clip-, has invented a ultrasound based detector that can be worn like a band-aid and whose sensitivity is au pair with professional ultrasound devices used in hospital.

The breakthrough has been made possible by the manufacturing of tiny vibrating drums – polyCMUTs (polymer capacitive micro-machined ultrasound transducers)- made with a special resins (replacing the piezoelectric crystals used today in ultrasound devices). What is nice is that the manufacturing process requires less steps than the one used today for silicon based drums and for piezoelectric ultrasound generators, resulting in lower cost, something crucial if one is targeting the mass market.

It is just another tiny step in the path that will transform the health care sector and disrupt its market place (and players).

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.