Ultrasound technology has been helping determine whether it’s a boy or a girl since the late 1950s. And if anyone mentions ‘ultrasound’ to you, that’s probably the first thing you’ll think of. But ultrasound waves have many more uses than just peering inside the human body.
Let’s take a look at 4 interesting ways that ultrasonic technology is used, that you’ve probably never heard of.
1. Helping Blind People See
Animals such as dolphins and bats use ultrasonic waves to locate objects they can’t see. Any objects in their path reflect the ultrasonic waves back to them. This is known as echolocation and it allows animals to find prey and avoid colliding with objects in the dark.
Researchers in California have borrowed the idea for blind people. They’ve developed an ultrasonic helmet that works in much the same way as a bat does! It emits ultrasonic waves and then processes the waves that are reflected back to it. It gathers this information and creates audible sounds that the person wearing the helmet can learn to process into meaningful information about their environment.
Just imagine creating a mental picture of your surroundings based on the sounds you hear!
2. Ultrasonic Cleaning
One of the more common uses of ultrasound is cleaning. When ultrasonic waves are created in the water they create a special kind of bubble known as a ‘cavitation bubble.’ These bubbles implode upon impact and create a lot of heat and energy. When they hit objects in the water they can remove dirt, oil, and grease from surfaces.
Ultrasonic cleaning doesn’t require any chemicals and can save time. It’s commonly used in many industries for cleaning machinery and industrial equipment.
3. Non-Destructive Testing
In a very similar way to how ultrasound allows us to see a fetus within a womb, it allows us to examine certain objects. Ultrasonic waves can help us to examine various materials for cracks and other signs of damage.
With ultrasonic testing, there is no need to cut or dismantle an object in order to inspect it. You just need to be able to access one side of it. This is incredibly useful for inspecting things such as gas pipes and the quality of welds.
4. Ultrasonic Welding
Speaking of welding! Ultrasonic waves can even weld two pieces of plastic together. When you rub your hands together they get warmer. Ultrasonic welding works on a similar principle. The two pieces of plastic are held together and the ultrasonic waves that travel through them cause them to vibrate.
These rapid vibrations cause the two pieces of plastic to rub against each other and heat up. When they get warm enough they bind together. Ultrasonic welding is commonly used in the manufacture of trainers, disposable lighters, and containers such as blister packs.
The Future of Ultrasonic Technology
Ultrasonic technology has only really been implemented in the last decade. Its uses are being explored and developed regularly. Ultrasonic technology is being looked into as a means of further enhancing virtual reality and allowing a new and truer type of hands-free operating system for our mobile phones. It’s safe to say we are only beginning to witness the full potential of ultrasonic technology.
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