Ultrasound on the go | Natural electronics

Wearable devices, such as smartwatches, can be used to continuously monitor physiological data and have a potential role to play in the development of personalized healthcare. Studies have, for example, shown that data from consumer smartwatches can aid in the early detection of COVID-19. Devices that can be attached conformably to the skin could expand the capabilities of current consumer devices. These next-generation systems are often used to record signals from the skin – to analyze sweat or record electrocardiograms, for example – but their use in imaging internal tissues and organs is more limited. Xuanhe Zhao and his colleagues have now developed a portable ultrasound imaging device that can continuously monitor different body organs.

Credit: Reprinted with permission from AAAS

The researchers, based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, use a thin but rigid ultrasound probe made of an array of piezoelectric elements. Each of these elements is controlled by circuits placed above and below the network (with the upper circuit covered with an acoustic support layer and the lower circuit covered with an acoustic matching layer). The probe is then adhered to the skin using a soft but strong hydrogel, which is encapsulated by a thin elastomeric membrane and then covered with a thin bioadhesive layer. The researchers show that the device can be worn on the skin for more than 48 hours and can image blood vessels, lungs, heart and stomach.

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