Research Paper: Physics -- History of Ultrasound

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[. . .] d.). Ultrasound continued to be refined and gradually used widely in the medical profession; for example, in 1989, French physician Daniel Lichtenstein began using lung ultrasound at the point of care in ICU units (Tsung, 2011, p. 22). The technology developed and was refined continually until point-of-care ultrasound became possible with portable equipment in circumstances far from any laboratory or hospital, even to the point of transmitting real-time ultrasound images to iPhones (Tsung, 2011, pp. 28-9). From very early clumsy and limited technologies, scientists and the medical profession have continually refined ultrasound physics into a common and effective tool of modern medicine.

Properties of the Transducer

The term "transducer" means "a device that transfers power from one system to another in the same or in the different form" (Anonymous, n.d.). In its basic form, a transducer includes a sensor and all the related circuitry. The transducer, which is an essential part of modern ultrasound physics, accepts a form of input energy or signal and converts it to another form of output energy or signal, as the following diagram shows:

(Anonymous, n.d.)

Based on the piezo-electric effect discovered by the Curies, transducer crystals give output energy or a signal in the form of a visual or readable image (Carlson, 2009, p. 3). This technology allows modern medical science, for example, to penetrate a patient's skull with energy, which is then converted by a transducer crystal into a real-time image of a tumor or other foreign body in the brain. Variations of the transducer have been developed as a matter of necessity. For example, after the Titanic's sinking in 1912, the "hydrophone" was developed to detect icebergs, and eventually was used to detect submarines during the First World War (Tsung, 2011, p. 6). Modern medicine uses different transducers, though modern transducers are made of "piezoelectric linear or multi-element phased arrays" (Carlson, 2009, p. 3). The specific type of transducer used depends on how deeply the energy must penetrate a subject in order to obtain the desired image. Higher frequency transducer crystals cannot penetrate as deeply but give clearer images while lower frequency transducer crystals penetrate more deeply but give less clear images (Visualsonics, n.d., p. 4).


Ultrasound Physics developed from discoveries made by many professions from numerous countries over several centuries. At first, the discoveries were not related to medicine and were made by scientists in several other fields. However, as these discoveries were gradually combined, health care professionals began to see the usefulness of ultrasound physics for detection, diagnosis and treatment of many ailments. One constant in the history of ultrasound physics is the transducer, which converts energy to an image, and is still used in various forms, depending on the depth of the object to be imaged. The continued refinement of transducers and of Ultrasound Physics in general shows how valuable Ultrasound Physics is to the medical profession and to humanity. Though Ultrasound Physics will continue to develop, the current state of the art is so well-developed that ultrasound can now be accomplished in remote locations in real time with iPhones.

Works Cited

Anonymous. (n.d.). An introduction to sensors and transducers. Retrieved on January 3, 2013 from Web site:

Carlson, P.L. (2009, January 13). Anniversary paper: Evolution of ultrasound physics and the role of medical physicists and the AAPM and its journal in that evolution. Retrieved on January 3, 2013 from Web site:

Echolocation. (2013). Echolocation. Retrieved on January 3, 2013 from Web site:

Piezo Systems, Inc. (n.d.). History of Piezoelectricity. Retrieved on January 3, 2013 from Web site:

Posakony, G. (n.d.). Posakony notes on the Howry scanners. Retrieved on January 3, 2013 from Web site:

Tsung, J. (2011, May). History of ultrasound and technological advances. Retrieved on January 3, 2013 from Web site: of ultrasound physics

Visualsonics. (n.d.). Ultrasound physics & terminology. Retrieved on January 3, 2013 from Web site: [END OF PREVIEW]

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Physics -- History of Ultrasound.  (2013, January 4).  Retrieved October 16, 2019, from

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"Physics -- History of Ultrasound."  January 4, 2013.  Accessed October 16, 2019.