The advancement of technology has its advantages, especially for rural areas and low-income households around the world. With microsystems and nano-engineering, processes can be made more efficient and the cost of operation reduced.
Also, some engineers have turned their skills in this direction, designing complex wearable technologies that are improving, and in some cases saving people’s lives. Wearable technologies are revolutionizing industries as they focus on the health of workers usually at risk.
For example, miners, inside mines, can utilize wearable technologies to monitor their health and safety underground. Also, innovation is continuing.
Engineers at the University of British Columbia have invented an ultrasound transducer. A transducer is a device that converts a variation in a physical quantity, such as pressure or brightness, into an electrical signal or vice versa.
Essentially they have designed an ultrasound sensor that can be carried around in a pocket. So, how did they do it? It’s all up to the transducer. Instead of piezoelectric crystals, which allow us to see inside the body with traditional ultrasound scanners, they have used ‘small vibrating drums made from a polymer resin’.
Lead author on the study, Carlos Gerardo, a PhD candidate in electrical and computer engineering at UBC said:
“Transducer drums have typically been made out of rigid silicon materials that require costly, environment-controlled manufacturing processes, and this has hampered their use in ultrasound. By using polymer resin, we were able to produce polyCMUTs (polymer capacitive micromachined ultrasound) in fewer fabrication steps, using a minimum amount of equipment, resulting in significant cost savings.”
The technology only needs 10 volts to function, so a smartphone can thus power it. The resulting sonogram is purportedly a more precise, crisper sonogram than those using piezoelectric transducers.
Ultrasounds are not the only use for this technology. The researchers insist that they can look under the skin for arteries and veins and can scan heart activity through the chest. The technology should benefit many because of its ability to monitor a range of health issues at a fraction of the cost. The researchers believe, at market value, the tech will cost USD$100.
Gerardo, Carlos D., et al. “Fabrication and Testing of Polymer-Based Capacitive Micromachined Ultrasound Transducers for Medical Imaging.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 27 Aug. 2018, www.nature.com/articles/s41378-018-0022-5.
“New Technology Yields Cheaper Ultrasound Machine.” Research & Development, 11 Sept. 2018, www.rdmag.com/article/2018/09/new-technology-yields-cheaper-ultrasound-machine.