Research ArticleENGINEERING

Stretchable ultrasonic transducer arrays for three-dimensional imaging on complex surfaces

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Science Advances  23 Mar 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 3, eaar3979
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aar3979

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Ultrasonic imaging has been implemented as a powerful tool for noninvasive subsurface inspections of both structural and biological media. Current ultrasound probes are rigid and bulky and cannot readily image through nonplanar three-dimensional (3D) surfaces. However, imaging through these complicated surfaces is vital because stress concentrations at geometrical discontinuities render these surfaces highly prone to defects. This study reports a stretchable ultrasound probe that can conform to and detect nonplanar complex surfaces. The probe consists of a 10 × 10 array of piezoelectric transducers that exploit an “island-bridge” layout with multilayer electrodes, encapsulated by thin and compliant silicone elastomers. The stretchable probe shows excellent electromechanical coupling, minimal cross-talk, and more than 50% stretchability. Its performance is demonstrated by reconstructing defects in 3D space with high spatial resolution through flat, concave, and convex surfaces. The results hold great implications for applications of ultrasound that require imaging through complex surfaces.

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