Material and array design for CMUT based volumetric intravascular and intracardiac ultrasound imaging
Xu, Toby Ge
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Recent advances in medical imaging have greatly improved the success of cardiovascular and intracardiac interventions. This research aims to improve capacitive micromachined ultrasonic transducers (CMUT) based imaging catheters for intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) and intra-cardiac echocardiography (ICE) for 3-D volumetric imaging through integration of high-k thin film material into the CMUT fabrication and array design. CMUT-on-CMOS integration has been recently achieved and initial imaging of ex-vivo samples with adequate dynamic range for IVUS at 20MHz has been demonstrated; however, for imaging in the heart, higher sensitivities are needed for imaging up to 4-5 cm depth at 20MHz and deeper at 10MHz. Consequently, one research goal is to design 10-20MHz CMUT arrays using integrated circuit (IC) compatible micro fabrication techniques and optimizing transducer performance through high-k dielectrics such as hafnium oxide (HfO2). This thin film material is electrically characterized for its dielectric properties and thermal mechanical stress is measured. Experiments on test CMUTs show a +6dB improvement in receive (Rx) sensitivity, and +6dB improvement in transmit sensitivity in (Pa/V) as compared to a CMUT using silicon nitride isolation (SixNy) layer. CMUT-on-CMOS with HfO2 insulation is successfully integrated and images of a pig-artery was successfully obtained with a 40dB dynamic range for 1x1cm2 planes. Experimental demonstration of side looking capability of single chip CMUT on CMOS system based FL dual ring arrays supported by large signal and FEA simulations was presented. The experimental results which are in agreement with simulations show promising results for the viability of using FL-IVUS CMUT-on-CMOS device with dual mode side-forward looking imaging. Three dimensional images were obtained by the CMUT-on-CMOS array for both a front facing wire and 4 wires that are placed perpendicular to the array surface and ~4 mm away laterally. For a novel array design, a dual gap, dual frequency 2D array was designed, fabricated and verified against the large signal model for CMUTs. Three different CMUT element geometries (2 receive, 1 transmit) were designed to achieve ~20MHz and ~40MHz bands respectively in pulse-echo mode. A system level framework for designing CMUT arrays was described that include effects from imaging design requirements, acoustical cross-talk, bandwidths, signal-to-noise (SNR) optimization and considerations from IC limitations for pulse voltage. Electrical impedance measurements and hydrophone measurements comparisons between design and experiment show differences due to inaccuracies in using SixNy homogenous material in simulation compared to fabricated thin-film stacks (HfO2-AlSi-SixNy). It is concluded that for “thin” membranes the effect of stiffness and mass of HfO2 and AlSi (top electrode) cannot be ignored in the simulation. Also, it is understood that aspect ratio (width to height) <10 will have up to 15% error for center frequency predicted in air when the thin-plate approximation is used for modelling the bending stiffness of the CMUT membrane.