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Perspectief Programme ULTRA-X-TREME Granted

Ultrafast Ultrasound Imaging for Extended Diagnosis and Treatment of Vascular Disease (ULTRA-X-TREME)

NWO (the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) has announced the new research programmes that will be part of its ‘Perspective for Top Sectors' funding programme. One of the programmes that will be funded is the ULTRA-X-TREME programme, in which new ultrasound techniques will be developed for improved diagnosis of dangerous vascular problems. Michiel Pertijs' Ultrasound ASICs group at the Electronic Instrumentation Laboratory will be responsible for the development of advanced integrated electronics for the high-frame-rate 3D ultrasound probes that will play a key role in this programme.

Vascular problems can be life-threatening. Cerebral infarctions (strokes) are often caused by calcification of the carotid artery and ruptures in the abdominal artery (aortic aneurysms) as a result of a weakening of the arterial wall. Currently, doctors determine the likelihood of both problems simply by measuring the diameter of these arteries. However, this has proved to have only limited predictive value, which means more people than necessary undergo life-threatening treatments and dangerous cases are overlooked.

The ULTRA-X-TREME programme will develop new, highly accurate ultrasound techniques to enable 3D imaging of the arterial walls and blood flow. New transducers, contrast media and analysis techniques will be developed in order to determine much more effectively whether treatment is necessary.

The ULTRA-X-TREME consortium brings together the best Dutch research groups in the field of ultrasound technology and the biomechanics of blood vessels with hospitals and international industry. Within this programme, Michiel Pertijs will work together with Nico de Jong and Martin Verweij (Imaging Physics, Fac. of Applied Sciences) and Hans Bosch (Erasmus MC) on the development of a unique matrix transducer with more than 20,000 elements and integrated electronics, for making 3D echo images with a high volume frame rate.

Programme leader: Prof. dr. ir. C.L. de Korte (Radboudumc and Twente University)

Participants: ANSYS, Bracco Suisse S.A., Catharina hospital, Erasmus MC, Harteraad, Mindray, Nederlandse Vereniging voor Vaatchirurgie (NVVV), Philips Electronics Nederland, Pie Medical Imaging, Radboudumc, Rijnstate hospital, TU Delft, TU Eindhoven, TOMTEC Imaging Systems, Twente University, Vermon S.A., Verasonics

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Our work on Intravascular Ultrasound featured on the cover of TUFFC

The IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control selected our paper

    J. Janjic, M. Tan, E. Noothout, C. Chen, Z. Chan, Z. Y. Chang, R. H. S. H. Beurskens, G. van Soest, A. F. W. van der Steen, M. D. Verweij, M. A. P. Pertijs, and N. de Jong, "A 2D ultrasound transducer with front-end ASIC and low cable count for 3D forward-looking intravascular imaging: Performance and characterization," IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control, vol. 65, no. 10, pp. 1832-1844, Oct. 2018 (link)

to be featured on the cover of the October 2018 issue.

This paper is the result of a collaboration on intravascular ultrasound imaging between the Ultrasound ASICs group at the Electronic Instrumentation Lab, the Thoraxcenter at Erasmus MC, and the Laboratory of Acoustical Wavefield Imaging at the Faculty of Applied Sciences, Delft University of Technology.

Forward-looking intravascular ultrasound (FL-IVUS) holds rich potential for guidance of complex vascular interventions, such as recanalization of coronary chronic total occlusions. The realization of FL-IVUS devices is fraught with technical challenges, as a high-resolution volumetric image needs to be created from a small (< 1.5 mm) aperture with scant space for cabling and electronics. In this issue of the Transactions, we present an innovative concept for an FL-IVUS matrix array, consisting of 16 transmit (yellow) and 64 receive elements (red), addressed by only four cables. A dedicated front-end ASIC performs element addressing and received signal amplification. The realized configuration produces a narrow pulse-echo beam profile with sidelobes below −20 dB. 3-D synthetic aperture imaging (bottom) at a volume rate of 100 Hz is feasible.

Details on the ASIC, which was designed at the Electronic Instrumentation Lab by Mingliang Tan, Chao Chen, Zhao Chen and Michiel Pertijs, can be found in

    M. Tan, C. Chen, Z. Chen, J. Janjic, V. Daeichin, Z. Y. Chang, E. Noothout, G. van Soest, M. D. Verweij, N. de Jong, and M. A. P. Pertijs, "A front-end ASIC with high-voltage transmit switching and receive digitization for 3D forward-looking intravascular ultrasound imaging," IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits, vol. 53, no. 8, pp. 2284-2297, Aug. 2018 (link)

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Six papers at the 2018 IEEE Ultrasonics Symposium

Douwe presenting his work at IUS2018

At the 2018 IEEE Ultrasonics Symposium (IUS) - the world’s premier conference on ultrasound research held in Kobe, Japan, in October - the Ultrasound ASICs group presented six papers covering various aspects of our work on integrated circuits for smart ultrasound applications.

Douwe van Willigen presented two papers at IUS. The first, entitled “ASIC design for a single-cable 64-element ultrasound probe”, was nominated for the Best Student Paper Competition (top 3.5% of the student paper submissions). In this paper, we present an ASIC (Application-Specific Integrated Circuit) that interfaces 64 piezoelectric elements directly integrated on top of the ASIC to an imaging system using a single micro-coaxial cable. This innovative design allows a single-element transducer to be replaced by a transducer array, while using the same cable, making it a promising solution for 3D imaging with size-constrained probes. This work is part of our work on intra-vascular ultrasound , a collaboration with the Acoustical Wavefield Imaging Lab (Faculty of Applied Sciences, Delft University of Technology) and the Thoraxcenter, Erasmus MC, Rotterdam.

A second paper authored by Douwe, “Minimizing the zero-flow error in transit time ultrasonic flow meters”, presents results of our FLOW+ project, analysing the effect of driver- and readout electronics on the zero-flow error in transit-time ultrasonic flow meters.

Another paper that links to the same FLOW+ research project, entitled “Feasibility of ultrasound flow measurements via non-linear wave propagation,” was presented by Jack Massaad. This paper demonstrates the feasibility of using non-linear wave propagation to improve the precision of flow measurements using ultrasound.

Zhao Chen presented a paper entitled “A Power-Efficient Transmit Beamformer ASIC for 3-D Catheter-Based/ Endoscopic Probes”, which presents an innovative approach to reduce the power consumption of integrated high-voltage pulsers in miniature ultrasound probes.

Zhao also presented a paper entitled “A quantitative study on the impact of bit errors on image quality in ultrasound probes with in-probe digitization”, in which we investigate an import question associated with the next-generation of digital ultrasound probes: if you digitize the echo signals in the probe, what are then the bit-error requirements on the digital datalink used to send the echo signals to an imaging system? We’ve found that very high bit-error rates can be tolerated without significant impact on image quality, opening the door to the use of simple and power-efficient datalink solutions.

Finally, Mehdi Soozande presented a paper entitled “Virtually Extended Array imaging improves lateral resolution in high frame rate volumetric imaging,” in which we describe a high-frame-rate transmission scheme which outperforms alternative methods in lateral resolution, targeting catheter-based 3D imaging applications.

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