A prototype of a therapeutic ultrasound device, developed by a Cornell graduate student, fits in the palm of a hand, is battery-powered, and packs enough punch to stabilize a gunshot wound or deliver drugs to brain cancer patients. It is wired to a ceramic probe, called a transducer, and it creates sound waves so strong they instantly cause water to bubble, spray and turn into steam.

Tinkering in his Olin Hall lab, George K. Lewis, a third-year PhD student in biomedical engineering and a National Science Foundation fellow, creates ultrasound devices that are smaller, more powerful, and many times less expensive than today’s models. Devices can weigh 30 pounds and cost $20,000; his is pocket-sized and built with $100.

The development of one of his portable devices is detailed in the journal Review of Scientific Instruments (79-114302), published online Nov 11.

Ultrasound is commonly used as a nondestructive imaging technique in medical settings. Sound waves, inaudible to humans, can generate images through soft tissue. The devices can relieve arthritis pressure and even help treat brain cancer by pushing drugs quickly through the brain following surgery.

Lewis miniaturized the ultrasound device by increasing its efficiency. Traditional devices apply 500-volt signals across a transducer to convert the voltage to sound waves, but in the process, about half the energy is lost. In the lab, Lewis has devised a way to transfer 95% of the source energy to the transducer.

His new devices are being tested in a clinical setting at Weill Cornell Medical College.

[Source: Science Daily]