TNO at Holst Centre develops ultrasound patch for organ monitoring

Eindhoven, Netherlands (April 4 2024) – TNO at Holst Centre and TNO Defense colleagues have developed a technology that allows organs to be monitored via a flexible patch on the skin. Using sound waves, it creates images of an organ over a longer period of time. This eliminates the need to go to the hospital for examination because the patient can be monitored at home. Nature Communications published our paper Flexible large-area ultrasound arrays for medical applications made using embossed polymer structures' this week.

 

The patch (named PillarWave™) works by printing on a very thin plastic film specific structures that create an echo. By emitting and receiving sound waves, it creates an image of what is inside a body. Because it is possible to print very many of these structures over a large area, a very sharp image of the organ to be examined can be obtained.

Better and cheaper healthcare

Many advantages can be imagined. Whereas measuring blood pressure or heart rate is often a snapshot, wearing a patch provides an image over a longer period of time. That results in a much better diagnosis and may even prevent unnecessary surgery. And many examinations can be done at the doctor's office or at home instead of the hospital, such as ultrasound monitoring of critical pregnancies. This makes health care not only more pleasant, but also better and cheaper.

Commercialization

The technology has been patented and there are discussions with medical equipment manufacturers about its applications. Current ultrasound equipment is rigid and difficult to incorporate into patches. In addition, the sensors are small and difficult to scale to large areas. With this technology, plasters or other ultrasound sensors can be made that are ultra-thin and flexible. This makes them much cheaper and producible in large numbers. A spin-off PillarWave is expected to be established before the end of the year to take this technology further to market.