Progress made in the development of a miniature real-time volumetric ultrasound imaging system is presented. This system is targeted for use in a 5-mm endoscopic channel and will provide real-time, 30-mm deep, volumetric images. It is being developed as a clinically useful device, to demonstrate a means of integrating the front-end electronics with the transducer array, and to demonstrate the advantages of the capacitive micromachined ultrasonic transducer (CMUT) technology for medical imaging. Presented here is the progress made towards the initial implementation of this system, which is based on a two-dimensional, 16x16 CMUT array. Each CMUT element is 250 um by 250 um and has a 5 MHz center frequency. The elements are connected to bond pads on the back side of the array with 400-um long through-wafer interconnects. The transducer array is flip-chip bonded to a custom-designed integrated circuit that comprises the front-end electronics. The result is that each transducer element is connected to a dedicated pulser and low-noise preamplifier. The pulser generates 25-V, 100-ns wide, unipolar pulses. The preamplifier has an approximate transimpedance gain of 500 kOhm and 3-dB bandwidth of 10 MHz. In the first implementation of the system, one element at a time can be selected for transmit and receive and thus synthetic aperture images can be generated. In future implementations, 16 channels will be active at a given time. These channels will connect to an FPGA-based data acquisition system for real-time image reconstruction.
Applications of ultrasonic imaging in fields such as dermatology,
ophthalmology, and cardiovascular medicine require very high
resolution. Limitations in existing transducer technologies inhibit
the development of high-frequency arrays, which would allow the use of
dynamic focusing and enable higher frame rates. As an alternative,
capacitive micromachined ultrasonic transducer (CMUT) technology,
using integrated circuit fabrication techniques, can provide arrays
with the small dimensions required for high-frequency operation. We
have designed and fabricated several linear and ring arrays of CMUTs
to operate in the 10 to 50 MHz range. These new arrays are made with
the wafer bonding process. The ring arrays in particular demonstrate
the feasibility of thinning the transducer to aid packaging in
intravascular applications. This study shows that CMUTs can be made
for high-frequency operation. Both transducers for use in
conventional and collapse-mode operation have been designed and
characterized. The results demonstrate that CMUT is an appropriate
technology for building high-frequency arrays. A linear array of
high-voltage pulser and amplifier circuits has also been designed for
use with an array of CMUTs to enable real-time imaging applications.
Pulse-echo results from the sixteen-channel array have been
We have designed, fabricated, and characterized two-dimensional 16x16-element capacitive micromachined ultrasonic transducer (CMUT) arrays. The CMUT array elements have a 250-μm pitch, and when tested in immersion, have a 5 MHz center frequency and 99% fractional bandwidth. The fabrication process is based on standard silicon micromachining techniques and therefore has the advantages of high yield, low cost, and ease of integration. The transducers have a Si3N4 membrane and are fabricated on a 400-μm thick silicon substrate. A low parasitic capacitance through-wafer via connects each CMUT element to a flip-chip bond pad on the back side of the wafer. Each through wafer via is 20 μm in diameter and 400 μm deep. The interconnects form metal-insulator-semiconductor (MIS) junctions with the surrounding high-resistivity silicon substrate to establish isolation and to reduce parasitic capacitance. Each through-wafer via has less than 0.06 pF of parasitic capacitance. We have investigated a Au-In flip-chip bonding process to connect the 2D CMUT array to a custom integrated circuit (IC) with transmit and receive electronics. To develop this process, we fabricated fanout structures on silicon, and flip-chip bonded these test dies to a flat surface coated with gold. The average series resistance per bump is about 3 Ohms, and 100% yield is obtained for a total of 30 bumps.