Echolocation, Animals, and Physics:
The physics behind this rare form of communication is the backbone of all ultrasound imaging. These animals communicate by emitting high pitched sounds that hit an object, which in turn create an echo. Once the echo bounces off the object it returns to the animal. The animal can then locate or identity this prey, food, animal, or whatever the object may be. Ultrasound machines fundamentally work the same way. The probe emits a sound wave, which strikes the part of the body that is being diagnosed, and proceeds to penetrate the body and create an echo. The echo is then translated into moving images.
Despite having the physics to create ultrasounds, the means of translating the sound waves into images had yet to be discovered. In fact, it took nearly a century until Pierre and Jacques Currie discovered another crucial building block to producing ultrasound images in 1877: Piezoelectricity.
It turned out to be another sixty five years before the combination of echolocation and piezoelectricity was applied in a medical context (in 1942). Neurologist Karl Dussik attempted to use an ultrasound probe to detect brain tumors in his patient. From that point on, there was an explosion of ultrasound use in the medical industry. Now, physicians can use ultrasounds all over the body, and scientists have developed doppler imaging (which can be read about in our previous blog How It Works: Doppler Ultrasound Imaging). The potential application of ultrasound technology seems to be endless, and the science behind it is constantly developing and growing.
(Special thanks and credit to https://www.ultrasoundschoolsinfo.com/history/ for providing important information)
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