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Ultrasonic Waves Uses and Development

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Biology
Wordcount: 3164 words Published: 18th May 2018

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Ultrasonics refers to the study of application of sound waves higher in frequency than the human audible range. Music and common sounds that are considered as 12 kHz or less, while some humans can hear frequencies up to 20 kHz. Ultrasonic waves consist of frequencies greater than 20 kHz and exist in excess of 25 MHz. these waves are used in many applications including plastic welding, medicine, jewelry cleaning, and nondestructive test. Within nondestructive test, ultrasonic waves give us the ability to”see through” solid/opaque material and detect surface or internal flaws without affecting the material adversely.


After the World War II, sonar waves use to sending sound waves through water and observing the returning echoes to characterize submerged objects, inspired early ultrasound investigators to explore ways to apply the concept to medical diagnosis. In 1929 and 1935, Sokolov studied the use of ultrasonic waves how to detecting metal objects. Mulhouse, in 1931, obtained a patent using ultrasonic waves, using two transducers to detect flaws in solids. Firestone (1940) and Simons (1945) developed pulsed ultrasonic testing using a pulse-echo technique.

After the close of World War II, researchers in Japan began to explore the medical diagnostic capabilities of ultrasound. The first ultrasonic instruments used an A-mode presentation with blips on an oscilloscope screen. That was followed by a B-mode presentation with a two dimensional, gray scale image.

Japan’s work in ultrasound was relatively unknown in the United States and Europe until the 1950s. Researchers then presented their findings on the use of ultrasound to detect gallstones, breast masses, and tumors to the international medical community. Japan was also the first country to apply Doppler ultrasound, an application of ultrasound that detects internal moving objects such as blood coursing through the heart for cardiovascular investigation.

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Ultrasound pioneers working in the United States contributed many innovations and important discoveries to the field during the following decades. Researchers learned to use ultrasound to detect potential cancer and to visualize tumors in living subjects and in excised tissue. Real-time imaging, another significant diagnostic tool for physicians, presented ultrasound images directly on the system’s CRT screen at the time of scanning. The introduction of spectral Doppler and later color Doppler depicted blood flow in various colors to indicate the speed and direction of the flow.

The United States also produced the earliest hand held “contact” scanner for clinical use, the second generation of B-mode equipment, and the prototype for the first articulated-arm hand held scanner, with 2-D images.

Beginnings of Nondestructive Evaluation (NDE)

Nondestructive testing has been practiced for many decades with initial rapid developments in instrumentation spurred by the technological advances that occurred during World War II and the subsequent defense effort. In the earlier days, the primary purpose was the detection of defects. As a part of “safe life” design, it was intended that a structure should not develop macroscopic defects during its life, with the detection of such defects being a cause for removal of the component from service. In response to this need, increasingly sophisticated techniques using ultrasonic waves, eddy currents, x-rays, dye penetrants, mag netic particles, and other forms of interrogating energy emerged.

In the early 1970’s, two events occurred which caused a major change in the NDT field. First, improvements in the technology led to the ability to detect small flaws, which caused more parts to be rejected even though the probability of component failure had not changed. However, the discipline of fracture mechanics emerged, which enabled one to predict whether a crack of a given size will fail under a particular load when a material’s fracture toughness properties are known. Other laws were developed to predict the growth rate of cracks under cyclic loading (fatigue). With the advent of these tools, it became possible to accept structures containing defects if the sizes of those defects were known. This formed the basis for the new philosophy of “damage tolerant” design. Components having known defects could continue in service as long as it could be established that those defects would not grow to a critical, failure producing size.

A new challenge was thus presented to the non-destructive testing community. Detection was not enough. One needed to also obtain quantitative information about flaw size to serve as an input to fracture mechanics based predictions of remaining life. The need for quantitative information was particularly strongly in the defence and nuclear power industries and led to the emergence of quantitative non-destructive evaluation (QNDE) as a new engineering/research discipline. A number of research programs around the world were started, such as the Canter for Non-destructive Evaluation at Iowa State University (growing out of a major research effort at the Rockwell International Science Canter); the Electric Power Research Institute in Charlotte,


Ultrasonic testing has been practiced for many decades. Initial rapid developments in instrumentation spurred by the technological advances from the 1950’s continue today. Through the 1980’s and continuing through the present, computers have provided technicians with smaller and more rugged instruments with greater capabilities.

Thickness gauging is an example application where instruments have been refined make data collection easier and better. Built-in data logging capabilities allow thousands of measurements to be recorded and eliminate the need for a “scribe.” Some instruments have the capability to capture waveforms as well as thickness readings. The waveform option allows an operator to view or review the A-scan signal of thickness measurement long after the completion of an inspection. Also, some instruments are capable of modifying the measurement based on the surface conditions of the material. For example, the signal from a pitted or eroded inner surface of a pipe would be treated differently than a smooth surface. This has led to more accurate and repeatable field measurements.

Many ultrasonic flaw detectors have a trigonometric function that allows for fast and accurate location determination of flaws when performing shear wave inspections. Cathode ray tubes, for the most part, have been replaced with LED or LCD screens. These screens, in most cases, are extremely easy to view in a wide range of ambient lighting. Bright or low light working conditions encountered by technicians have little effect on the technician’s ability to view the screen. Screens can be adjusted for brightness, contrast, and on some

Instruments even the color of the screen and signal can be selected. Transducers can be programmed with predetermined instrument settings. The operator only has to connect the transducer and the instrument will set variables such as frequency and probe drive.

Along with computers, motion control and robotics have contributed to the advancement of ultrasonic inspections. Early on, the advantage of a stationary platform was recognized and used in industry. Computers can be programmed to inspect large, complex shaped components, with one or multiple transducers collecting information. Automated systems typically consisted of an immersion tank, scanning system, and recording system for a printout of the scan. The immersion tank can be replaced with a squirter systems, which allows the sound to be transmitted through a water column. The resultant C-scan provides a plan or top view of the component. Scanning of components is considerably faster than contact hand scanning, the coupling is much more consistent. The scan information is collected by a computer for evaluation, transmission to a customer, and archiving.

Today, quantitative theories have been developed to describe the interaction of the interrogating fields with flaws. Models incorporating the results have been integrated with solid model descriptions of real-part geometries to simulate practical inspections. Related tools allow NDE to be considered during the design process on an equal footing with other failure-related engineering disciplines. Quantitative descriptions of NDE performance, such as the probability of detection (POD), have become an integral part of statistical risk assessment. Measurement procedures initially developed for metals have been extended to engineered materials such as composites, where anisotropy and in homogeneity have become important issues. The rapid advances in digitization and computing capabilities have totally changed the faces of many instruments and the type of algorithms that are used in processing the resulting data. High-resolution imaging systems and multiple measurement modalities for characterizing a flaw have emerged. Interest is increasing not only in detecting, characterizing, and sizing defects, but also in characterizing the materials. Goals range from the determination of fundamental microstructure characteristics such as grain size, porosity and texture (preferred grain orientation), to material properties related to such failure mechanisms as fatigue, creep, and fracture toughness. As technology continues to advance, applications of ultrasound also advance. The high-resolution imaging systems in the laboratory today will be tools of the technician tomorrow.


In the future the fields of NDE see an exciting new set of opportunities. The defense and nuclear power industries have played a main role in the emergence of NDE. Increasing global competition has led to dramatic changes in product development and business cycles. At the same time infrastructure, from roads to buildings and aircraft, present a new set of measurement and monitoring challenges for engineers as well as technicians.

Among the new applications of NDE spawned by these changes is the increased emphasis on the use of NDE to make the productivity of manufacturing processes. Quantitative nondestructive evaluation (QNDE) both increases the amount of information about failure modes and the speed with which information can be obtained and facilitates the development of in-line measurements for process control.

The phrase, “you cannot inspect in quality, you must build it in,” exemplifies the industry’s focus on avoiding the formation of flaws. Nevertheless, manufacturing flaws will never be completely eliminated and material damage will continue to occur in-service so continual development of flaw detection and characterization techniques is necessary.

Advanced simulation tools that are designed for inspect ability and their integration into quantitative strategies for life management will contribute to increase the number and types of engineering applications of NDE. With growth in engineering applications for NDE, there will be a need to expand the knowledge base of technicians performing the evaluations. Advanced simulation tools used in the design for inspect ability may be used to provide technical students with a greater understanding of sound behavior in materials. UTSIM, developed at Iowa State University, provides a glimpse into what may be used in the technical classroom as an interactive laboratory tool.

As globalization continues, companies will seek to develop, with ever increasing frequency, uniform international practices. In the area of NDE, this trend will drive the emphasis on standards, enhanced educational offerings, and simulations that can be communicated electronically. The coming years will be exciting as NDE will continue to emerge as a full-fledged engineering discipline.


Principle of active sonar

A common use of ultrasound is into finding the range. This use is also called SONAR, (sound navigation and ranging). This is similarly to RADAR (radio detection and ranging): An ultrasonic pulse is generated in a particular direction. If there is an object in the path of this pulse, part or all of the pulse will be reflected back to the transmitter as an echo and can be detected through the receiver path. By measuring the difference in time between the pulse being transmitted and the echo being received. It is possible to determine how far away the object.

The measured travel time of SONAR pulses in water is strongly dependent on the temperature and the salinity of the water. Ultrasonic ranging is also applied for measurement in air and for short distances. Such method is capable for easily and rapidly measuring the layout of rooms.

Although range finding underwater is performed at both sub-audible and audible frequencies for great distances. Ultrasonic range finding is used when distances are shorter and the accuracy of the distance measurement is desired to be finer. Ultrasonic measurements may be limited through barrier layers with large salinity, temperature or vortex differentials. Ranging in water varies from about hundreds to thousands of meter according to their accuracy.

1) Diagnostic sonography

Medical sonography is an ultrasound based diagnostic medical imaging technique used to visualize muscles, tendons, and many internal organs, to capture their size, structure and any pathological lesions with real time homographic images. Ultrasound has been used by sonographers to image the human body for at least 50 years and has become one of the most widely used diagnostic tools in modern medicine. The technology is relatively inexpensive and portable, especially when compared with other techniques, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT). Ultrasound is also used to visualize foetuses during routine and emergency prenatal care. Such diagnostic applications used during pregnancy are referred to as obstetric sonography.

Ultrasound can also be used for heat transfer in liquids. Researchers recently employed ultrasound in dry corn milling plant to enhance ethanol production.


Ultrasonic cleaners, sometimes mistakenly called supersonic cleaners, are used at frequencies from 20 to 40 kHz for jeweler, lenses and other optical parts, watches, dental instruments, surgical instruments, diving regulators and industrial parts. An ultrasonic cleaner works mostly by energy released from the collapse of millions of microscopic cavitations near the dirty surface. The bubbles made by capitation collapse forming tiny jets directed at the surface.


Similar to ultrasonic cleaning, biological cells including bacteria can be disintegrated. High power ultrasound produces cavitations’ that facilitates particle disintegration or reactions. This has uses in biological science for analytical or chemical purposes (Sanitation and Sonoporation) and in killing bacteria in sewage. Dr. Samir Khanal of Iowa State University employed high power ultrasound to disintegrate corn slurry to enhance liquefaction and saccharification for higher ethanol yield in dry corn milling plants. Similar to these findings was Dr. Oleg Kozyuk able to improve ethanol yield with hydrodynamic cavitations.


The ultrasonic humidifier, one type of nebulizer (a device that creates a very fine spray), is a popular type of humidifier. It works by vibrating a metal plate at ultrasonic frequencies to nebulizer (sometimes incorrectly called “atomize”) the water. Because the water is not heated for evaporation, it produces a cool mist. The ultrasonic pressure waves nebulizer not only the water but also materials in the water including calcium, other minerals, viruses, fungi, bacteria, and other impurities. Illness caused by impurities that reside in a humidifier’s reservoir fall under the heading of “Humidifier Fever”.


  • Bats

Bats use ultrasounds to move in the darkness.

Bats use a variety of ultrasonic ranging (echolocation) techniques to detect their prey. They can detect frequencies as high as 100kHz, although there is some disagreement on the upper limit.

  • Rodents/insects

There is evidence that ultrasound in the range emitted by bats causes flying moths to make evasive maneuvers because bats eat moths. Ultrasonic frequencies trigger a reflex action in the noted moth that causes it to drop a few inches in its flight to evade attack.

Tiger moths also emit clicks which jam bats’ echolocation.

Ultrasound generator/speaker systems are sold with claims that they frighten away rodents and insects, but there is no scientific evidence that the devices work.

  • Dogs

Dogs can hear sound at higher frequencies than humans can. A dog whistle exploits this by emitting a high frequency sound to call to a dog. Many dog whistles emit sound in the upper audible range of humans, but some, such as the silent whistle, emit ultrasound at a frequency in the range 18-22kHz.

  • Dolphins and whales

It is well known that some whales can hear ultrasound and have their own natural sonar system. Some whales use the ultrasound as a hunting tool.

  • Fish

Several types of fish can detect ultrasound. In the order Cuneiforms, members of the subfamily Alumina have been shown to be able to detect sounds up to 180kHz, while the other subfamilies (e.g. herrings) can hear only up to 4kHz.)

  • Horses

Diagnostic ultrasound is used externally in the equine for evaluation of soft tissue and tendon injuries, and internally in particular for reproductive work – evaluation of the reproductive tract of the mare and pregnancy detection. It may also be used in an external manner in stallions for evaluation of testicular condition and diameter as well as internally for reproductive evaluation .


Occupational exposure to ultrasound in excess of 120 dB may lead to hearing loss. Exposure in excess of 155 dB may produce heating effects that are harmful to the human body, and it has been calculated that exposures above 180 dB may lead to death




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