Ultrasound imaging

Breakthrough in hands-free,
at-home ultrasound monitoring

By combining its extensive knowledge on ultrasound technology, printed electronics, and health patches, TNO at Holst Centre has taken solid first steps in a next generation hands-free, low-cost, at-home ultrasound monitoring solution.

Technology explained

Ultrasound offers safe, radiation-free medical imaging. However, current ultrasound systems require manual manipulation by a highly skilled operator and offer a small field of view. Through a unique, printed architecture, TNO at Holst Centre has made it possible to create large-area, flexible transducer arrays that reduce operator variability and open the door to hands-free ultrasound systems. These systems use AI-technology to compare and interpret data sets over time, and this requires reproducible images taken from the same position and area of the body. Therefore, our ultrasound-on-foil technology potentially allows millions of individual transducers to be integrated into an adhesive patch, enabling higher resolution and improved image quality, as well as a wider field of view. Optimised polymers and adhesives in the patch potentially provide better acoustic impedance matching the human body, eliminating the need for the gels used in a traditional ultrasound scan. Such patches can be used, for example, for at-home monitoring of high-risk pregnancies and arterial plaque build-up. Extensive lab tests with this hands-free ultrasound patch created the first high-quality images proving that this technology is very promising indeed.

Societal benefits

Instead of going to the hospital for a snapshot impression with the current ultrasound equipment, this hands-free patch solution enables comfortable continuous and safe at-home monitoring. By producing these patches in high quantities at low costs, ultrasound monitoring becomes available for developing countries, especially because this technology does not require trained medical staff, which adds to the democratisation of healthcare.