A team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has created a proof-of-concept for a new “ultrasound sticker,” which is the size of a stamp and is able to provide continuous ultrasound imagining of a person’s internal organs for up to 48 hours. The stickers, which utilize hydrogel in order to function, currently require a wired connection to instruments, but future iterations will function wirelessly.
“Currently, ultrasound imaging requires bulky and specialized equipment available only in hospitals and doctor’s offices,” MIT notes in a press release describing the ultrasound sticker. “But a new design by MIT engineers might make the technology as wearable and accessible as buying Band-Aids at the pharmacy.”
To create their ultrasound sticker the researchers, who outlined their design and prototype in a closed-access paper in Science, paired a “stretchy adhesive layer” with “a rigid array of transducers.” Transducers are electronic devices that convert energy from one form to another—in this instance, by sending sound waves into a human body, which, in turn, echo off internal organs and return back where the echoed signals are translated into visual images.
In order for the ultrasound echoes to work, however, they must travel through a liquid gel, which acts as a conductive medium that creates a bond between the skin and the ultrasound transducer. In this instance, the researchers chose hydrogel as the conductive medium. Hydrogel, for those unfamiliar, is a crosslinked three-dimensional polymeric network structure, which can absorb and retain considerable amounts of water. It’s used to make, for example, the kinds of lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) used to deliver the COVID-19 mRNA “vaccines.”