As scientists and researchers explore new ways to use ultrasonics, there is an increasing need to employ more elements and more channels. This is particularly true in the field of diagnostic medical ultrasound, where physicians have utilized 3D imaging to better understand complex anatomical structures, and 4D ultrasound (3D in real-time) to depict moving structures such as the valves in the heart.
For imaging moving structures, or to acquire a volume of data at high-speed, the optimal transducer is an electronically-steered phased array that uses a two-dimensional grid of elements. This type of transducer is often called a matrix array and may utilize hundreds or even thousands of elements. Several transducer manufacturers are now making matrix arrays in 8×8, 16×16, 32×32 and even higher element configurations.
There are some clinical ultrasound systems that employ matrix arrays, however these typically utilize only 192 or 256 channels. The transducers are multiplexed, and use “micro-beamforming” techniques to reduce the programming complexity and data volume that these probes can acquire. Many scientists and researchers, however, would prefer to have a direct connection to every element for maximum flexibility, absolute control and complete data acquisition.