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Patent Issued for Ultrasound System with Ultrasound Generator, Resonator and Light Source

August 20, 2014



By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Journal of Engineering -- A patent by the inventors Hielscher, Harld (Stahnsdorf, DE); Hielscher, Thomas (Stahnsdorf, DE); Hielscher, Holger (Teltow, DE), filed on October 4, 2012, was published online on August 5, 2014, according to news reporting originating from Alexandria, Virginia, by VerticalNews correspondents.

Patent number 8797109 is assigned to Dr. Hielscher GmbH (Teltow, DE).

The following quote was obtained by the news editors from the background information supplied by the inventors: "The present invention relates to an ultrasound system with an ultrasound generator and a resonator connected to the ultrasound generator for conducting ultrasound and supplying the ultrasound to a fluid medium.

"Ultrasound systems are widely used for the generation of low-frequency high-power ultrasound, for example, to atomize flowable media such as dispersions, solvents, water, oils, emulsions, melts, acids, bases and other liquids. For this purpose, low-frequency high-power ultrasound with amplitudes of 1 to 350 .mu.m, preferably 10 to 80 .mu.m and for example 35 .mu.m is generated by the aforementioned ultrasound systems and transmitted from the resonator to the flowable medium. Low frequency high-power ultrasound refers to ultrasound with an operating frequency of 15 to 2000 kHz, preferably 15 to 800 kHz and for example 25 kHz, and an acoustic power above 5 W, preferably 10 W to 20,000 W, and for example 200 W. For example, piezoelectric or magnetostrictive ultrasound generators are used to generate the ultrasound. The resonator is, for example, an acoustic transducer and a two-dimensional or curved plate oscillator or a tubular resonator.

"When flowable media are exposed to ultrasound in open containers or vessels, the ultrasound resonator typically extends from above into the liquid to be treated. With this structure, the ultrasound generator is located in this case above the sample to be exposed to ultrasound. Under normal laboratory conditions with for example ceiling-mounted lamps installed above the workspace, the ultrasound system casts a shadow on the sample to be treated. This complicates working and reduces the possibilities for a visual assessment of the result attained with the exposure to ultrasound.

"The term ultrasound usually refers to oscillations which are barely or not at all perceptible to the human ear. In addition, the acoustic perception can be additionally impeded by the recommended use of ear protection or sound absorbing enclosures, such as acrylic glass enclosures. It is therefore sometimes difficult to acoustically perceive the operating state of the ultrasound system. However, low-frequency high-power ultrasound produces hazardous conditions during operation, for example, through manual contact, or through formation of splashes or aerosols when immersing an already vibrating resonator in a liquid. Poor illumination of the resonator may make it difficult for the operator to recognize whether the resonator is already immersed in the medium. However, when an already vibrating resonator is immersed in the medium, the medium may shoot from its container due to the ultrasound vibration and endanger or even injure the operator.

"It would therefore be desirable and advantageous to obviate prior art shortcomings and to provide an improved ultrasound system, which is safer to operate than conventional ultrasound systems."

In addition to the background information obtained for this patent, VerticalNews journalists also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent: "According to one aspect of the present invention, an ultrasound system includes an ultrasound generator, a resonator connected to the ultrasound generator for conducting ultrasound and supplying the ultrasound to a flowable medium, and a light source configured to illuminate at least sections of the resonator.

"Because the light source now at least partially illuminates the resonator, the workspace of an operator handling the ultrasound system is well illuminated, even when the ultrasound system is a handheld ultrasound system. The operator can easily detect whether the resonator is already immersed in the medium.

"Furthermore, the light source can generate optical feedback for the operator about the operating state of the ultrasound system during operation and handling of the ultrasound system, especially of a handheld ultrasound system. During use, the operator typically looks at the sample to be treated and at a section of the resonator immersed in the sample. Visual displays outside the active viewing field obstruct the work flow and may represent a hazard, since the view must be directed away from the active resonator and thus from the active workspace.

"During operation the light source illuminates the field of view of the operator, where it can either provide visual feedback about the operating state of the ultrasound system and/or effectively illuminate the field of view. If the operator looks in the direction of the field of view, then he can clearly see the resonator during the operation of the light source, because the resonator is at least partially illuminated by the light source.

"The inventive solution can be improved by various embodiments which are advantageous either separately or in combination. These embodiments and the advantages associated with these embodiments will be discussed below.

"Accordingly, at least the part of the resonator, which during operation of the ultrasound system is in direct contact with the flowable medium and which supplies the ultrasound, for example, to the flowable medium, may be illuminated by the light source. During operation of the ultrasound system, in particular the section of the resonator that emits the ultrasound and that is potentially immersed in the flowable medium is located in the field of view of the operator, wherein the operator can always clearly recognize this particular portion of the resonator due to the illumination. The part of the resonator that can be illuminated with the light source is preferably a free end of the resonator facing away from the ultrasound generator.

"To be able to adequately illuminate or light the field of view, the light source may have a brightness of at least 0.5 cd, preferably of more than 10 cd, and for example 30 cd. The light source may produce light having selected and in particular arbitrary wavelengths, preferably in the visible range, in particular between 450 nm-550 nm.

"In particular, the light source may be oriented to illuminate the surroundings of the resonator, so that at least the medium to be treated with the ultrasound can at least be partially illuminated at least in the field of view of the operator. The visual indications generated by the light source can then also be clearly perceived by the operator.

"In order to illuminate the workspace located in field of view of the operator well, the light source may be mounted on the ultrasound generator and be oriented so as to radiate, illuminate or light away from the ultrasound generator during operation. A light source mounted on the ultrasound generator illuminates the workspace of the ultrasound system independent from the orientation of the ultrasound generator, which is particularly advantageous with ultrasound systems that are oriented manually.

"When the resonator protrudes from the ultrasound generator, the light source can be oriented so as radiate along the resonator during operation, so that sections of the resonator having a maximum distance from the ultrasound generator as well as workspaces arranged around these sections can also be illuminated.

"The resonator may be shaped as a rod, in order to easily reach the media to be treated with ultrasound. With a rod-shaped resonator, the light source is preferably oriented so as to radiate parallel to the resonator during the operation of the light source.

"For example, the light source may be an LED, a laser or a lamp, which is preferably positioned so that its light falls largely along the resonator on or into the medium to be treated. A light signal generated by the light source is therefore visible within the field of view of the operator while working with the ultrasound system.

"In one embodiment, a light source may be positioned so that the light falls at least partially on the resonator, such that the illuminated resonator can be identified as an optical signal.

"It is difficult to estimate an immersion depth of the resonator in the flowable medium in particular with uniformly constructed resonators, which lack any significant variations in diameter or markings, for example, along their longitudinal axis. To produce a marking on the resonator, the light source may be configured to illuminate the resonator partially shaded or significantly brighter in comparison to other illuminated areas of the resonator, wherein the shaded or brighter areas may have a fixed spatial relationship with respect to the resonator. Markings composed of shadows or e.g. light spots or stripes can be used to enable the user to estimate the distance to the sample material or the immersion depth.

"The ultrasound system may be configured to operate the light source differently, depending on operating states of the ultrasound system. In this way, the operating state of the ultrasound system is optically displayed to the operator, while the operator looks at the workspace. The operator then does not have to look away from work or operating area to determine the operating state of the ultrasound system, for example look at a control unit of the ultrasound system.

"For indicating whether the ultrasound system is in operation, the ultrasound system may be configured to supply operating power to the light source, for example as soon as the ultrasound system generates ultrasound. In a simple embodiment, a continuous light signal may be, for example, started and stopped simultaneous with the ultrasound.

"In order to be able to identify different operating states, the ultrasound system may be configured to operate the light source differently, depending on the operating states. For example, operation modes of the light source may comprise one of periodically supplying operation power to the light source, varying the operation power of the light source, changing orientation of the light source and changing color of light emitted by the light source, when a selected operating state exists. Therefore, for example three-color LEDs may be used as light sources. When using several light sources, the light emitted by each of the light sources may have a different wavelength than light emitted by any other of the light sources. More signal information (for example, 'In Use', 'Malfunction' or 'Warning') can then be transmitted to the user. Several possibilities for operating the light sources (also in combination) are available to inform or to warn the operator with optical signals, including: Continuous operation; Pulse mode or pulse train; Variation in luminosity; Variation of the light color; Variation of light orientation; or Varying shapes and projected images.

"These optical signaling possibilities may be used, for example, to communicate to the user one or more of the following information: Ultrasound enabled/disabled; Ultrasound intensity; Oscillation amplitude; Ultrasound power; Temperature of the medium; Danger; Malfunction; Pressure of the medium; Time of the exposure to ultrasound (e.g., blinking every second); Cumulative energy input; or Actual or optimum immersion depth.

"To provide the operator with more information or to produce the shaded and/or brighter areas or markings, the ultrasound system may include an image generator that can be illuminated with the light source, with the image generator possibly generating different images depending on the operating states of the ultrasound system. The light from the light source, for example from a laser or an LED, may be incident on or through a mask, an aperture or an active matrix, such as a LCD or TFT, positioned in front and thus project a shape or an image into the field of view of the operator.

"To illuminate the resonator or the field of view or workspace as uniformly as possible, without causing components of the ultrasound system and in particular the resonator to shade the workspace, the ultrasound system may have several light sources. Preferably, the resonator is disposed between the light sources and illuminated from several sides. To prevent partial or complete shading, for example by the resonator, at least two light sources may for example be positioned around the resonator. These light sources are preferably arranged so as to largely or completely prevent formation of shadows."

URL and more information on this patent, see: Hielscher, Harld; Hielscher, Thomas; Hielscher, Holger. Ultrasound System with Ultrasound Generator, Resonator and Light Source. U.S. Patent Number 8797109, filed October 4, 2012, and published online on August 5, 2014. Patent URL: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=8797109.PN.&OS=PN/8797109RS=PN/8797109

Keywords for this news article include: Dr. Hielscher GmbH.

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Source: Journal of Engineering


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