Sharper sound beams to replace scalpel

Engineers at Michigan University have revealed the development of sound beams which could replace the scalpel for non-invasive surgery.


The ‘invisible knife’ will act as a tool operating via a carbon-nanotube-coated lens. Its conversion properties that transform light to sound can enable high-pressure sound waves to make incisions and discharge in a more refined way than has been previously possible.

Once the energy waves are focused tight enough, the heat generated acts as a surgical tool. Through this technology, sights of the womb and the destruction of kidney stones are already possible.

The latest and most refined beam employs pressure rather than heat, like previous beams, for the cutting action.

The ultrasound beams operate at a frequency approximately 100 time higher than is physically audible for humans to hear.

The bulky focal spot is, however, currently an obstacle to the refinement of the sharp beams.

“A few centimeters is typical. Therefore, it can be difficult to treat tissue objects in a high-precision manner, for targeting delicate vasculature, thin tissue layer and cellular texture. We can enhance the focal accuracy 100-fold,” Hyoung Won Baac, a research fellow at Harvard Medical School explained.

According to Jay Guo, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science, mechanical engineering, and macromolecular science and engineering, surgery performed in this fashion should be painless because of the finer focus that enables nerve avoidance.

However, these theoretical calculations are yet to be tested on animals and humans before its credibility can be confirmed with successful results.

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