Dresden, September 3, 2018. Arteriosclerosis is the most common of all vascular diseases. Formerly considered a disease of the elderly, it is now increasingly affecting younger people. Arteriosclerosis is the narrowing of arteries, restricting blood flow to organs and other body parts that can lead to critical consequences of life-threatening heart attack or life-changing stroke. Patients diagnosed with arteriosclerosis must undergo surgery to expand narrowed or blocked blood vessels. This surgery consists of a physician inserting a catheter through a vein into the arterial vasculature to relieve harmful constriction using either a balloon or stent.
The majority of these surgeries can be performed using minimally invasive procedures supported by a variety of smart imaging and sensory catheters, allowing doctors to see exactly where a catheter is at any point during operative treatment.
In the recently launched “POSITION II” project aiming to further develop features of intelligent catheters, Fraunhofer IPMS strives to make procedures easier for doctors and safer for patients. The project aims to provide more functional medical instruments based on micromechanical ultrasonic transducers, making them smaller and cheaper as well as safer and easier to use.
Ultrasound transducers for medical imaging are currently based primarily on the piezoelectric effect for both signal generation and evaluation, using special, potentially-toxic piezo materials. These materials are also difficult to manufacture, making them very expensive. In implementing MEMS structures (so-called MUT components) for the construction of ultrasonic transducers, Fraunhofer IPMS technology sidesteps these important challenges to achieve a compact design and the associated higher miniaturization. Integration into CMOS processes using special technology (as a post-CMOS-module) provides for production cheaper than possible with piezo-based ultrasonic transducers. In addition, higher frequency can be achieved, resulting in better resolution allowing for more accurate analysis of medical imaging.
Existing MUT technologies will be compared and further developed within the “POSITION II” project to allow key players in the industry the opportunity to select optimal variants or combinations of concepts, technologies, and components for each application. In conclusion, the project will provide an application matrix as well as a roadmap for MEMS-based ultrasound transducers in Europe with particular focus on intelligent medical applications.
Funded by the Electronic Components and Systems for European Leadership Joint Undertaking (ECSEL JU) initiative of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) Framework Program of the European Union (H2020/2014-2020) and national authorities (ECSEL-783132-Position-II-2017-IA), the joint “POSITION II” project has been granted a term of three years.