Design considerations and performance of MEMS acoustoelectric ultrasound detectors

Zhaohui Wang, Pier Ingram, Charles L. Greenlee, Ragnar Olafsson, Robert A. Norwood, Russell S. Witte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Most single-element hydrophones depend on a piezoelectric material that converts pressure changes to electricity. These devices, however, can be expensive, susceptible to damage at high pressure, and/or have limited bandwidth and sensitivity. We have previously described the acoustoelectric (AE) hydrophone as an inexpensive alternative for mapping an ultrasound beam and monitoring acoustic exposure. The device exploits the AE effect, an interaction between electrical current flowing through a material and a propagating pressure wave. Previous designs required imprecise fabrication methods using common laboratory supplies, making it difficult to control basic features such as shape and size. This study describes a different approach based on microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) processing that allows for much finer control of several design features. In an effort to improve the performance of the AE hydrophone, we combine simulations with bench-top testing to evaluate key design features, such as thickness, shape, and conductivity of the active and passive elements. The devices were evaluated in terms of sensitivity, frequency response, and accuracy for reproducing the beam pattern. Our simulations and experimental results both indicated that designs using a combination of indium tin oxide (ITO) for the active element and gold for the passive electrodes (conductivity ratio = ~20) produced the best result for mapping the beam of a 2.25-MHz ultrasound transducer. Also, the AE hydrophone with a rectangular dumbbell configuration achieved a better beam pattern than other shape configurations. Lateral and axial resolutions were consistent with images generated from a commercial capsule hydrophone. Sensitivity of the bestperforming device was 1.52 nV/Pa at 500 kPa using a bias voltage of 20 V. We expect a thicker AE hydrophone closer to half the acoustic wavelength to produce even better sensitivity, while maintaining high spectral bandwidth for characterizing medical ultrasound transducers. AE ultrasound detectors may also be useful for monitoring acoustic exposure during therapy or as receivers for photoacoustic imaging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6587399
Pages (from-to)1906-1916
Number of pages11
JournalIEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Instrumentation
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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