Biomedical ultrasound research

The main department Ultrasound offers the complete expertise for solving medical, biotechnological, and technical problems in ultrasound technology: consultation, feasibility studies, lab model and prototype development, as well as certified product development and evaluation. All system components can be developed starting with material that has special characteristics, application specific ultrasound transducers, electronic system components and methods, software development, and sensor production.

By successfully establishing the new business areas High Frequency Ultrasound, Sonar Technology, and Deep Sea Research, new clients have been won. Biomedical ultrasound research studies and develops applications of ultrasound technology in medical diagnostics and therapy as well as biological research and technology. In particular, non-invasive information collection for diagnostics, targeted tissue destruction, and the release of drugs for therapy are being established. In biology ultrasound can be used to characterize biological material and live organisms without damage. In addition it can be utilized to specifically manipulate and as enabling-technology for biotechnical processes.

In the field of biomedical ultrasound research the Fraunhofer IBMT develops innovative ultrasound technology for medical diagnostics and therapy as well as for biological research and technology.

The medical research areas include non-invasive diagnostics and targeted tissue destruction or release of drugs for therapy. In biology ultrasound can be used to characterize biological material and live organisms without damage, to specifically manipulate, and as enabling-technology for biotechnical processes.

The IBMT performs intensive research in search of new applications for ultrasound technology. The implementation of high and highest frequency systems offers access to novel research approaches in translational imaging. Using acoustic microscopy for cell biological research and systems of high definition imaging in small animal models for basic research, non-invasive, cost-efficient investigation of morphologic and anatomic problems is possible.

Specific approaches for combining ultrasound technology and other imagining technologies and methods of combined and hybrid molecular imaging are being studied. Furthermore, the effect of ultrasound on biological tissue and its use in biotechnology is a focus.

In the area of biomedical applications and imaging, the Fraunhofer IBMT specializes in the flexible client specific development of multi-channel ultrasound systems and imaging methods for medical, biomedical, and technical use. It ranges from low frequency (sonar and therapy systems), to diagnostics, to high frequency and highest frequency systems, to imaging procedures for imaging small animals and to acoustic microscopy.

The Digital Phased Array System (DiPhAS) which has been approved as a medical product serves as a systemic research and development platform. It can be flexibly adjusted to various applications. Aside from the developed methods for the generation and processing of ultrasound pictures and signals as well as their reconstruction and visualization for diagnostics and interventional imaging (navigation, therapy control), freely programmable imaging systems provide new solutions for precise diagnostics.

Another focus of the main department Ultrasound is the development-associated project management for the approval of medical products according to EU-guideline 93/42/EWG.

Key competencies:

  • Application specific ultrasound research and development
  • Material characterization
  • Acoustic microscopy
  • Optoacoustic methods
  • Contrast media development
  • Molecular imaging
  • Ultrasound phased-array-systems
  • Sonar-systems
  • Small animal and translational imaging
  • Reconstruction and imaging methods
  • Signal processing/parameter extraction (filter development)
  • Analogous and digital circuit design
  • Software development and software tools for ultrasound signal processing
  • Intraoperative image-supported navigation and therapy control
  • Acoustic manipulation systems
  • Certification of medical products

Ultrasound research platform DiPhAS (Digital Phased Array System):

The DiPhAS with its high flexibility and scaling over a wide frequency range (500 kHz-20 MHz) is the basis for application-oriented research and product development. Applications extend from industrial, technical applications (sonar, material testing, etc.) to clinical diagnostics.

Exceptional are the open interfaces that allow free beam forming and access to all signal processing chain data (single channel data, HF-data, B-image data). The system has 32, 64, 128, and 256 channels and allows the operation of up to 4 parallel ultrasonic probes. It is used, for example, for the online-regulation of therapy systems in tumor treatment.

In addition, the newest generation of DiPhAS-systems was implemented with photoacoustic stimuli. In the sonar field, it is the first high definition multi-beam-sonar-system based on DiPhAS-technology.


An ultrasound system that is approved as a medical product to monitor interstitial thermotherapies.

SKINSPECTION – Multimodal imaging for skin diagnostics:

In the SKINSPECTION-project the European consortium is developing novel diagnostic equipment for non-invasive skin imaging. The consortium is validating it in a clinical study on the diagnosis of skin cancer diseases. Cancer morbidity is on the rise in Europe, the USA, and especially rapidly in Australia. This enhances the need for effective early detection methods.

Melanoma is the most frequent and at the same time most aggressive form of skin cancer. It is the second most common general cancer in women age 20-29 years and the sixth most common general cancer in men and woman overall. In 2007, in the USA alone, more than 1 million new cases were reported. The World Health Organization estimates that this year 60 000 people will die from sunlight exposure: 48 000 from melanoma and 12 000 from other types of skin cancer.

A significant improvement of the current skin diagnostic tools is necessary to identify skin damage at an early phase and to directly monitor the effects of treatment. A non-invasive mulitmodal hybrid imaging system for clinical diagnostics of skin lesions was developed in SKINSPECTION. In the project coordinated by Fraunhofer IBMT a combined platform was established that combines microscopic optical methods such as 2-photon microscopy and FLIM (FluorescenceLifetime Imaging) with high definition ultrasound and optoacoustics.

By combining the modalities, skin damage can be demonstrated macroscopically (ultrasound/optoacoutics) as well as microscopically with subcellular definition. Following the approval of the developed modules, a clinical trial was initiated that is currently in progress. For the first time, this study is evaluating the new imaging system in patients in a multicenter study. The project supplies a novel, unique tool for early diagnosis and the regulation of skin cancer and skin disease treatment.


In the project “TieTeK” which is funded by the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft as market-oriented preliminary research, first sensoric and actoric modules were tested in the in-house pressure chamber for deep sea use at 600 bar outside pressure. A first prototype of the complete vehicle was taken into operation in the ocean. The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft supports these future-oriented developments in the new business area of underwater sensoric and deep sea technology by strategic investments for the development of test platforms for underwater communication systems.