September 30, 2022

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This ultrasonic sticker is watching us inside

Ultrasound images return a clear picture of what is going on inside our bodies, and they work in a safe and non-invasive way: so far, however, take photo Inside our bodies it requires special devices, which are only available in hospitals, and are able to use them. The invention of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, presented in a study Posted in ScienceIt simplifies taking ultrasound images with a postage stamp-sized sticker that, once placed on the skin, transmits sound waves from our organs and blood vessels to a device, recording high-quality images in a completely safe, non-invasive way.

The MIT poster measures approximately 2cm square and is 3mm thick.
© Phyllis Frankel | Massachusetts Institute of Technology

dehydration problems. Ultrasound images are usually taken by first placing a gel on the patient’s skin (think of traditional ultrasound exams during pregnancy), which acts as a waveform transmitter, and then pressing a transducer, a device capable of sending waves to the device that converts them . for photos. However, this system does not work on patients who require prolonged imaging, because the gel dries up after a while, interrupting the transmission of waves.

Attempts failed. In recent years, some researchers have tried to find a solution to this problem, for example by designing flexible ultrasound probes, which use small transducers that can be adapted to the patient’s body. However, the images captured were low-resolution, in part due to skin stretching that caused the tiny transducers to shift and distort the final image.

How are they made? To get around this problem, MIT’s adhesives combine an adhesive layer with a series of rigid transducers: “This combination allows the device to adapt to the skin while maintaining the position of the transducers, in order to produce sharper, more accurate images,” study coordinator Zhong Wang explains.

The adhesive part consists of two thin layers of synthetic rubber which surrounds a layer of flexible and elastic hydrogel. The elastomer prevents the hydrogel from drying out, ensuring the passage of sound waves and allowing high-resolution image reproduction.

However, the main current limitation is that in order to work, the labels must be attached to a device that converts waves into images.

improvements for the future. However, scientists are already working on introducing wireless The system: If successful, the stickers could be turned into wearables to buy at the drugstore. “Our idea is to create patches that stick to different parts of the body by sending waves directly to our smartphone,” explains Xuanhe Zhao, one of the authors, stressing that the reading of the waves will be entrusted to an artificial intelligence algorithm that will work directly from the mobile phone. In addition to monitoring the functioning of internal organs, the MIT may be useful in the future to monitor tumor development, or even to follow fetal development in a pregnant woman.