Low Cost Device Design Makes Ultrasound Imaging Affordable Worldwide

Published date : 19 September 2012
Article date : 19 September 2012


Newcastle University in the UK has announced the development of a low cost ultrasound scanner. The hand-held USB device, created by Jeff Neasham and Research Associate Dave Graham at the University, is around the size of a computer mouse and works in a similar way to existing ultrasound scanners, using pulses of high frequency sound to build up a picture of an unborn child on a computer screen. However, unlike the technology used in most hospitals across the UK costing anywhere from £20,000-£100,000, the scanner can be manufactured for as little as £30-40.

Tested by experts in the Regional Medical Physics Department at the Freeman Hospital, part of the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UK), the scanner produces an output power that is 10-100 times lower than conventional hospital ultrasounds. They say that it is hoped the device will be used to provide medical teams working in the world’s poorest nations with basic, antenatal information that could save the lives of hundreds of thousands of women and children. 
According to the University, Mr Neasham said the original aim had been to make something portable and easy to use that would be affordable in developing countries as well as for some applications in the UK where ultrasound is still considered cost prohibitive. An expert in underwater sonar technology, he has developed systems for imaging the seabed – looking for ship wrecks or specific geographical features – as well as underwater communications and tracking systems. Drawing on his expertise in sonar signal processing, the design keeps components and hardware costs to an absolute minimum, and works by manually sweeping a transducer over the skin while a focussed image is formed by the PC software.
Apparently, the scanner requires nothing more than a computer with a USB port in order to work.
The University is seeking collaborative and/or licence opportunities with a suitable industrial partner who can take the next steps of commercialising the technology. More information about the product is available here.
Source: Newcastle University (UK), 14 August 2012
Read the press release here



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