Breakthrough In Technology: $100 Ultrasound Scanner The Size of a Band-Aid Powered By a Smartphone

Ultrasounds can only be used in clinics, and future parents must always go there to check if their baby is alright.

However, an engineering team at the University of British Columbia could help the expectant parents and many other patients to use a small ultrasound scanner at home. The device would cost about $100, as it uses cheap materials and the technology is even better than the conventional one used in hospitals, explain the researchers.

A New Transducer

According to Carlos Gerardo, who is part of the developing team and a Ph.D. candidate in the electrical and computer engineering department, the “technology (that’s) being used in hospitals dates back to World War One … The concept is very old.”

Their transducer uses small vibrating drums, which are made out of polymer resin – making the device cheap to manufacture – possibly lowering its price to $100 a piece.

The conventional scanners use piezoelectric crystals to send and receive sound waves. The new technology will soon be patented. It is portable and runs on only 10 volts, so it could easily be powered by a smartphone.

The short-term goal is to license the technology to manufacturers like Siemens or Philips, but the main focus in the long-term is to make the device available to families who want to monitor their fetus whenever they want.

UBC researchers left: Edmond Cretu, Carlos Gerardo, and Robert Rohling

Nonetheless, before they can achieve the goal, agencies like the FDA in the U.S. will have to regulate the device and certify it is safe to use.

The team claims that the device renders sharp and even more detailed images than the conventional sonograms produced by transducers that use piezoelectric technology.

Robert Rohling, a team member, and computer engineering professor, explains that their transducers can be scaled down and used to look inside veins and arteries:

“You could stick them on your chest and do live continuous monitoring of your heart in your daily life. It opens up so many different possibilities.”

As for ultrasound safety, HealthLink BC stated that “there are no known risks linked with a fetal ultrasound, either to the mother or fetus.”

Rex Austin

Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere