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AFRL develops algorithm, flexible device for hands-free ultrasound

  • Published
  • By Donna Lindner
  • Air Force Research Laboratory

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – A flexible ultrasound device might be the solution for remote physiological monitoring during en route medical care. 

Performing medical ultrasound usually requires the use of a hand-held, rigid arrangement of transducers that send ultrasonic pulses into the tissue and receive resulting reflections from the tissue. An image of the tissue can be reconstructed based off of the time it takes to send and receive the reflected ultrasonic pulse.

It would be advantageous to enable hands-free continuous ultrasound monitoring by replacing the hand-held wand and technician with a flexible transducer array that can be applied directly on a person.

The Air Force Research Laboratory has developed an algorithm to determine the location of transducers in a flexible arrangement, so that an ultrasound image can be determined without for a rigid array of transducers.

“We built a prototype device and have a patent pending,” said Dr. Abigail Juhl, program manager in the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate. “The use of this device may enable a single Airman to monitor the vital statistics of multiple patients simultaneously, freeing up other medical staff.”

This new technology could eventually replace hand-held wands operated by ultrasound technicians, enabling hands-free continuous monitoring of wounds and vital medical information such as respiration rate, heartbeat, and feeding tube placement, none of which are currently available.

This flexible ultrasound device could also simplify the emergency care delivery process by providing real-time information and automated warnings to diagnose medical problems in an expeditious manner by enabling constant monitoring of injured airmen.

“We are excited about the promise of the new technology for en route care and anxious to begin testing the prototype,” said Dr. Carson Willey, UES Inc.

There are many challenges to be completed before transitioning to a commercialized product. Transducers must be sourced, power minimized, hardware miniaturized, software developed and a user-friendly interface is necessary.

The use of a flexible ultrasound device that can monitor vitals en route and be simple to use is a tremendous benefit in saving a life.

This technology is currently able to be licensed for commercialization through the Office of Technology Transfer & Partnerships in AFRL’s Materials & Manufacturing Directorate. For more information, please contact the Corporate Communications Office at

About AFRL

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the primary scientific research and development center for the Air Force and Space Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,000 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit