ARC-supported researchers at The University of Queensland (UQ) have combined modern nanofabrication and nanophotonics techniques to build an ultraprecise ultrasound sensor on a silicon chip. The new and extremely sensitive method of measuring ultrasound could revolutionise everything from medical devices to unmanned vehicles.

ARC Future Fellowship recipient, Professor Warwick Bowen, from UQ’s Precision Sensing Initiative and the team at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS) have developed a near perfect ultrasound detector which could usher in a host of exciting new technologies.

With sensors smaller than a millimetre across, the device can detect the tiny noises from individual air molecules, and measure ultrasound waves that apply tiny forces—comparable to the gravitational force on a virus.

As well as common uses in biomedical imaging, such as during pregnancy, and to detect tumours, ultrasound technology can accurately image underwater objects and aid in the navigation of unmanned vehicles. Improving these applications requires these smaller, higher-precision sensors.

With a sensitivity that allows the measurement of tiny forces, such as the sound emitted by living bacteria and cells, the new ‘ultra-ultrasound’ could change how scientists understand biology.

Image A: Prof Warwick Bowen.
Image B: A scanning electron micrograph of a microdisk similar to the one researchers used to create their new ultrasound sensor.
Credit: The University of Queensland.