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Ultrasonics 49 (2009) 495–498

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Ultrasonic imaging using air-coupled P(VDF/TrFE) transducers at 2 MHz

Sadayuki Takahashi a,*, Hiroji Ohigashi b
Faculty of Education, Arts and Science, Yamagata University, Kojirakawa-cho 1-4-12, Yamagata 990-8560, Japan
Toyota Physical and Chemical Research Institute, Nagakute, Aichi 480-1192, Japan

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: A reflection non-contact ultrasonic microscope system working both in amplitude and phase difference
Received 10 April 2007 modes at 2 MHz has been developed using an air-coupled concave transducer made of piezoelectric poly-
Received in revised form 19 December 2007 mer films of poly(vinylidene fluoride/trifluoroethylene) [P(VDF/TrFE)]. The transducer is composed of
Accepted 15 October 2008
three 95 lm-thick P(VDF/TrFE) films stacked together, each of which is activated electrically in parallel
Available online 12 January 2009
by a driving source. The transducer has a wide aperture angle of 140° and a focal length of 10 mm.
The measured two-way transducer insertion loss is 80 dB at 1.83 MHz. Despite 20 dB higher insertion loss
than that estimated from Mason’s equivalent circuit, we have obtained clear amplitude acoustic images
of a coin with transverse resolution of 150 lm, and clear phase difference acoustic images of the rough
43.35.Sx surface of a paper currency bill with depth resolution of sub-micrometer. Using two planar transducers of
P(VDF/TrFE), we have also successfully measured in through-transmission mode the sound velocity and
Keywords: absorption of a 3 mm-thick silicone-rubber plate. The present study proves that, owing to its low acoustic
Piezoelectric polymer transducer impedance and flexibility, P(VDF/TrFE) piezoelectric film is very useful for high frequency acoustic imag-
P(VDF/TrFE) ing in air in the MHz range.
Air-coupled ultrasonic transducer Ó 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Ultrasonic imaging in air

1. Introduction much smaller than PZT, and the highest electromechanical cou-
pling factor kt among piezoelectric polymers (kt  0.3) [3].
Ultrasonic imaging and inspection using ultrasound propagat- We have developed air-coupled ultrasonic transducers using
ing in air in the MHz range has been actively studied in recent P(VDF/TrFE) piezoelectric films, along with a two-dimensional
years, owing to significant advantages for inspection of objects scanning acoustic microscope system for operating P(VDF/TrFE)
incompatible with liquid couplants (water or gels), such as paper transducers. The acoustic image and phase acoustic image were
products, electronic products etc. In addition, ultrasound imaging formed by the P(VDF/TrFE) transducers in this ultrasonic experi-
in air is advantageous because the position of the transducers ment system. It is confirmed from the experimental results that
can be set freely. Furthermore, imaging in air provides much higher the P(VDF/TrFE) transducer is very effective as a transducer of
resolution than in water because sound wavelength is shorter in air ultrasonic waves in air.
at a given frequency. However, there are two difficulties in trans-
mitting and receiving ultrasound propagating in the air at high fre-
quencies: (1) transducer efficiency decreases extremely due to 2. Acoustic air transducer
large acoustic impedance mismatching between transducers and
air. The situation is also pertains when ultrasound in air is trans- Fig. 1 shows a photograph of the concave type P(VDF/TrFE) air-
mitted to the interfaces between air and the object materials under coupled ultrasonic transducer. This transducer is composed of
inspection. (2) Attenuation of ultrasonic energy in air is about three three 90 lm-thick P(VDF/TrFE) films bonded together on a Cu-
orders of magnitude larger than in water at 1 MHz [1]. Despite plate electrode backed with a polymer substrate. These films were
such difficulties, Khuri-Yakub et al. first demonstrated ultrasonic stacked so that the polarization direction of each alternate film is
scanning images at 2 MHz using an air-coupled PZT transducer reversed. The Al-electrodes were metallized on the surfaces of each
[2]. Piezoelectric polymer P(VDF/TrFE) has an acoustic impedance P(VDF/TrFE) film, through which the RF-field can be applied di-
rectly from the electric source to vibrate in the same phase as other
two piezoelectric films. With this configuration of P(VDF/TrFE)
films, the electric impedance matching between the transducer
* Corresponding author. Tel./fax: +81 23 628 4378. and the electric source is much improved (by a factor of 32) as
E-mail address: (S. Takahashi). compared to transducers with a single P(VDF/TrFE) film 270 lm

0041-624X/$ - see front matter Ó 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
496 S. Takahashi, H. Ohigashi / Ultrasonics 49 (2009) 495–498

thick. The focused P(VDF/TrFE) transducer in Fig. 1 has a wide that a concave transducer with wide aperture angle can be fabri-
angular aperture of 140° to improve the angular (transverse) reso- cated because of its flexibility. The frequency dependence of two-
lution of the acoustic image. P(VDF/TrFE) film has an advantage way insertion loss (2transducer-loss) observed for two planar type
transducers made of three P(VDF/TrFE) films with the same config-
uration as the concave transducer is shown in Fig. 2, where the
insertion loss is defined by the ratio of output acoustic power in
air to the input electric power. The transducer insertion loss
(2TL) of the planar type transducers is about 20 dB larger at
2 MHz compared to the value calculated using the Mason’s equiv-
alent circuit [4,5]. The increased insertion loss may be attributed to


Frequency Power
Synthesizer Amp

Oscillo- Small signal

scope Amp P(VDF/TrFE)

Personal Pulse-motor
Computer Driver XYZ Stage
Fig. 1. A photograph of a P(VDF/TrFE) concave transducer.

Fig. 3. Block diagram of the air-coupled amplitude imaging system.


Loss (dB)

Observed(2TL ) Calculated(2TL )

1 .5 1 .6 1 .7 1 .8 1 .9 2 2 .1

Frequency (MHz)

Fig. 2. Measured (open circles) and calculated (closed square dot) frequency
dependence of two-way insertion loss (2TL) for planar type P(VDF/TrFE) air-coupled Fig. 4. Air-ultrasonic image (left) of a commemorative coin at 2 MHz and its
transducers. photograph (right).


Frequency Switch Attenutor RF Power

Synthesizer Amp

Local Small Signal

Mixer Amp

P hase Mixer IF
Detector Amp


Fig. 5. Block diagram of the air-coupled phase imaging system.

S. Takahashi, H. Ohigashi / Ultrasonics 49 (2009) 495–498 497

100 mV

0 0.09 5 0.19 0 (mm)

Fig. 8. Phase output signal intensity of a 1.83 MHz wave in air measured by the
system in Fig. 5 as a function of distance difference between the two planar

air-coupled focused transducer shown in Fig. 1. The continuous

wave from the frequency synthesizer was converted by a gate-
Fig. 6. (a) Ultrasonic phase image of part of a 2000-yen bill (10  25 mm) obtained
by the system displayed in Fig. 5. (b) Amplitude image from the system in Fig. 3.
switch to a burst wave, the voltage of which was amplified by a
power amp up to 400 Vpp. The high voltage burst wave was sent
insufficient bonding between the three P(VDF/TrFE) films. P(VDF/ to the transducer to transmit burst acoustic waves, and the echo
TrFE) transducers with insertion loss of about 60 dB or less can signal from an object sample on the stage was detected by the
be fabricated by overcoming this problem. same transducer. The mechanical scanning width driven by the
pulse motors for obtaining pulse echo images was 100 lm/step.
3. Ultrasonic imaging system working with air-coupled P(VDF/ This ultrasonic system was controlled by a personal computer pro-
TrFE) Transducers gram. Fig. 4 shows the amplitude acoustic image of a coin (Nagano
Olympic-Games Commemorative Coin) obtained with this system
3.1. Amplitude imaging at 2 MHz in air. The transverse resolution of the imaging system
is about 150 lm, which is somewhat worse than the theoretical
Fig. 3 shows the block diagram of the ultrasonic system con- resolution (115 lm), probably due to a bonding problem and
structed for obtaining amplitude reflection images utilizing the mechanical stepping length.

a b

(1 ),(2 ),(3 ) (1 ) (2 ) (3 )

Height (µm)

+5.0 (1) (3)


0.00 0.10 0.20 0.30 0.40 0.50 0.60
Distance (mm)
Fig. 7. The height-scanning signal of the convex side of the printed part measured by an interference microscope. The corresponding microscope image of the scanning part is
shown in (a) optical microscope image, and (b) interference microscope image.
498 S. Takahashi, H. Ohigashi / Ultrasonics 49 (2009) 495–498

of transmitting and receiving transducers by adding matching lay-

Silicone rubber plate
ers on transducer surfaces, and also to excite the transmitting
transducer with a burst signal of higher voltage. In the present
study, we tried to increase the excitation voltage up to about
800 Vpp. Fig. 9 shows the signal waveform of ultrasonic waves
passing through a 3 mm-thick silicone-rubber plate, that was
Burst-wave placed in the air between two flat-type P(VDF/TrFE) transducers
(the transducer efficiency is shown in Fig. 2). An output waveform
from the function generator is a burst of 6-cycles. We could suc-
cessfully detect multi-reflection waves within the silicone-rubber
plate. From the received signal, we determined the acoustic veloc-
ity and absorption in the silicone-rubber to be 951 m/s and 4.5 dB/
cm, respectively. We observed similar transmission signals passing
through Al-foils (10 lm-thick) and polystyrene plates (1.5 mm-
thick). If we add a quarter-wavelength silicone-rubber layer to
the surface of the P(VDF/TrFE) transducer as an impedance match-
ing layer, we expect a 4 dB increase in two-way transducer sensi-
tivity in air at 2 MHz.

5. Conclusion

A reflection acoustic microscope system comprising P(VDF/

TrFE) transducers was constructed. High-resolution images were
obtained at 2 MHz in air in both the amplitude and phase mode.
With two air-coupled P(VDF/TrFE) transmitting and receiving
transducers, we have shown that this acoustic imaging system is
also capable of detecting in-air acoustic waves passing through
polymer plates. The results show that P(VDF/TrFE) piezoelectric
polymer is very useful for air-coupled ultrasonic transducers work-
ing at high frequency (2 MHz) owing to its low acoustic imped-
Fig. 9. Observed waveform of an air ultrasonic burst (2 MHz) transmitted through a ance, flexibility, and low Q-figure, although insertion loss is still
silicone-rubber plate (3 mm-thick).
large. However, using impedance matching layers insertion loss
can be decreased by at least 4 dB. High-resolution acoustic images
3.2. Phase difference imaging can be expected in the future with the development of high fre-
quency P(VDF/TrFE) transducers with sensitivity of 50 dB and
Fig. 5 shows the phase difference imaging system. The phase improvement in the driving and receiving electronics [6].
difference image of a section (10  25 mm) of a 2000-yen currency
bill is shown in Fig. 6(a), and its amplitude image is shown in Acknowledgments
Fig. 6(b) for comparison. Both images (a) and (b) are obtained by
the echo signals of ultrasound at 1.83 MHz in air. Fig. 7 shows The authors are grateful to the members of the Device Group at
the height (22 lm) of the convex side of the printed part as mea- Toray Engineering Co., Ltd. for their valuable advice on manufac-
sured by an interference microscope. Fig. 8 shows the plots of turing the transducers. This work was partly supported by a
the phase difference of the output signal of the planar type Grant-in-Aid for Science Research (No. 17560041) from the Japan
P(VDF/TrFE) receiving transducer as a function of the displacement Society for the Promotion of Science.
of the transducer in the direction parallel to sound wave propaga-
tion at 1.83 MHz. The sinusoidal signal in Fig. 8 shows that the References
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