Project - HybridEcho
Else Kröner-Fresenius Center for Digital Health: Promoting Research. Helping People.
The Else Kröner-Fresenius Center for Digital Health (EKFZ) is a joint cross-faculty initiative of the TU Dresden, the University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus Dresden, five Fraunhofer Institutes - including the Fraunhofer IPMS - the Leibnitz Institute for Polymer Research and the Helmholtz Center Dresden-Rossendorf. The aim is to bring innovative medical digital technologies from the laboratory to patients. Fraunhofer IPMS is conducting research in the HybridEcho project to dramatically improve medical imaging thanks to the use of highly sensitive MEMS-based ultrasound transducers.
As a radiation-free, mobile technology, ultrasound has long been established as a widely used technology in medicine. Ultrasonic transducers in the medical field are currently mostly based on piezoceramics and composites. These emit sound waves and the returned echo is recorded to form an image. However, the reception quality of piezo-based ultrasound transducers is so poor that the spatial resolution is limited to 1 - 2 mm at a depth of 10 cm. Modern MEMS-based ultrasonic transducers offer a solution here: they allow the use of higher frequency bandwidths, which enables higher image resolution, and offer a more compact design.
In the HybridEcho project, Fraunhofer IPMS, together with the University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus Dresden, the Technical University of Dresden, Fraunhofer IKTS and Contronix GmbH, combines these advantages with state-of-the-art evaluation algorithms. For this purpose, the massive MIMO approach (multiple input, multiple output) known from 5G mobile radio technology is used. This bundles the transmission power and significantly increases transmission efficiency and data throughput. This results in a significantly increased image quality of the ultrasound.
The overall system consists of a multi-channel hybrid transmitter and receiver unit made of piezoelectric and MEMS-based ultrasound transducers. Fraunhofer IPMS contributes its capacitive micromechanical ultrasound transducers (CMUTs) and successfully integrated them with the piezo sensor technology on a common substrate. In 2021, a test bed was set up by TU Dresden to test the imaging algorithms on this system.
Starting in 2022, it is planned to expand the current sensor technology to multi-channel systems, higher bandwidth, greater receive sensitivity with packaging suitable for imaging. The improved technology promises early diagnosis of diseases (e.g. cancer) through higher resolution imaging at greater penetration depth, reduces costs and improves recovery prospects through the therapy of diseases in early stages that is possible with this. In addition, the Fraunhofer IPMS is strongly committed to further intensify the cooperation with the EKFZ in 2022. In the spirit of Else Kröner-Fresenius: Promoting research. Helping people.