High-resolution ultrasound imaging of the anterior portion of the eye has been shown to provide important information for sizing of intraocular lens implants, diagnosis of pathological conditions, and creation of detailed maps of corneal topography to guide refractive surgery. Current ultrasound imaging systems rely on mechanical scanning of a single acoustic element over the surface of the eye to create the three-dimensional information needed by clinicians. This mechanical scanning process is time-consuming and subject to errors caused by eye movement during the scanning period. This paper describes development of linear ultrasound imaging arrays intended to increase the speed of image acquisition and reduce problems associated with ocular motion. The arrays consist of a linear arrangement of high-frequency transducer elements designed to operate in the 50 - 75 MHz frequency range. The arrays are produced using single-crystal lithium niobate piezoelectric material, thin film electrodes, and epoxy-based acoustic layers. The array elements have been used to image steel test structures and bovine cornea.
Creare is developing microfabrication techniques to manufacture low-cost, multi-dimensional ultrasonic transducer arrays with single- and multi-layer piezoelectric elements for low impedance and high sensitivity. The manufacturing approach is scaleable for fabrication of transducer arrays in the frequency range of 10 - 50 MHz in dense or sparse array configurations. Our approach employs the following processes: (1) Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD or sputtering) of high-quality, piezoelectric films using reactive sputtering of metallic targets and (2) Novel use of state-of-the-art photolithography and masking to provide the interlayer electrodes, element interconnections, and array element fabrication. To date, Creare has successfully demonstrated that piezoelectrically active thick films of PZT material can be deposited by using a reactive sputtering approach. In addition, these thick, multi-layer PZT films have been formed into high aspect ratio elements using dicing to fabricate a 12 MHz transducer. Array designs based on these films show that expected performance should meet the requirements for high resolution biomedical imaging.