Investigation of acoustic crosstalk effects in CMUT arrays

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Hochman, Michael
Degertekin, F. Levent
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Capacitive Micromachined Ultrasonic Transducers (CMUTs) have demonstrated significant potential to advance the state of medical ultrasound imaging beyond the capabilities of the currently employed piezoelectric technology. Because they rely on well-established micro-fabrication techniques, they can achieve complex geometries, densely populated arrays, and tight integration with electronics, all of which are required for advanced intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) applications such as high-frequency or forward-looking catheters. Moreover, they also offer higher bandwidth than their piezoelectric counterparts. Before CMUTs can be effectively used, they must be fully characterized and optimized through experimentation and modeling. Unfortunately, immersed transducer arrays are inherently difficult to simulate due to a phenomenon known as acoustic crosstalk, which refers to the fact that every membrane in an array affects the dynamic behavior of every other membrane in an array as their respective pressure fields interact with one another. In essence, it implies that modeling a single CMUT membrane is not sufficient; the entire array must be modeled for complete accuracy. Finite element models (FEMs) are the most accurate technique for simulating CMUT behavior, but they can become extremely large considering that most CMUT arrays contain hundreds of membranes. This thesis focuses on the development and application of a more efficient model for transducer arrays first introduced by Meynier et al. [1], which provides accuracy comparable to FEM, but with greatly decreased computation time. It models the stiffness of each membrane using a finite difference approximation of thin plate equations. This stiffness is incorporated into a force balance which accounts for effects from the electrostatic actuation, pressure forces from the fluid environment, mass and damping from the membrane, etc. For fluid coupling effects, a Boundary Element Matrix (BEM) is employed that is based on the Green's function for a baffled point source in a semi-infinite fluid. The BEM utilizes the nodal mesh created for the finite difference method, and relates the dynamic displacement of each node to the pressure at every node in the array. Use of the thin plate equations and the BEM implies that the entire CMUT array can be reduced to a 2D nodal mesh, allowing for a drastic improvement in computation time compared with FEM. After the model was developed, it was then validated through comparison with FEM. From these tests, it demonstrated a capability to accurately predict collapse voltage, center frequency, bandwidth, and pressure magnitudes to within 5% difference of FEM simulations. Further validation with experimental results revealed a close correlation with predicted impedance/admittance plots, radiation patterns, frequency responses, and noise current spectrums. More specifically, it accurately predicted how acoustic crosstalk would create sharp peaks and notches in the frequency responses, and enhance side lobes and nulls in the angular radiation pattern. Preliminary design studies with the model were also performed. They revealed that membranes with larger lateral dimensions effectively increased the bandwidth of isolated membranes. They also demonstrated potential for various crosstalk reduction techniques in array design such as disrupting array periodicity, optimizing inter-membrane pitch, and adjusting the number of membranes per element. It is expected that the model developed in this thesis will serve as a useful tool for future iterations of CMUT array optimizations.
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