A new ultrasonic nanotechnology currently in development at the University of Nottingham, UK will permit scientists a view inside patients' individual cells. The new technology uses ultrasound with transducers so tiny that 500 could fit across the width of one human hair, minute enough to image individual cells for abnormalities and critical diagnoses.
The Division of Electrical Systems and Optics from the Ultrasonics Group, the team conducting the project, has been given a five-year platform grant totaling 850,000 BPS (or approximately $1.4 million) by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, a British Research Council that provides government funding in physical sciences.
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Dr. Matt Clark, Ultrasonics Group, commented, "By examining the mechanical properties inside a cell there is a huge amount that we can learn about its structure and the way it functions, but it's very much a leap into the unknown as this has never been achieved before."
Technical challenges exist, explained Dr. Clark. "To produce nano-ultrasonics you have to produce nano-transducers, which essentially means taking a device that is currently the size of a matchbox and scaling it down to the nanoscale. How do you attach a wire to something so small? Our answer to some of these challenges is to create a device that works optically--using pulses of laser light to produce ultrasound rather than an electrical current. This allows us to talk to these tiny devices."
Dr. Clark's team is also applying their technology to nanoengineering to assist meeting the enormous growth in the field of nanotechnology and the need for testing facilities which compare to those utilized for larger devices.