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  Ultrasonic Cancer Detection

In another groundbreaking project, the SSIM program and the nationally respected Karmanos Cancer Institute are working together to design prototype devices with the potential for detecting extremely early-stage breast cancer. The non-invasive, radiation-free technique can identify a cancerous cell mass while it is still small enough for easy removal, which typically results in complete cure.

Created through advanced materials development and micromachining methods pioneered by SSIM researchers, the technique centers around a sensing array that uses ultrasound to generate a three-dimensional hologram with elaborate details about the tissue under investigation. The research team is using advanced materials - specifically aluminum nitrides -- to make the array. With these materials, in conjunction with newly developed excimer laser micromachining technology available in the SSIM laboratory, the engineers are able to micromachine cutting-edge MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) membrane structures with aluminum thin-film coatings. The result is a highly refined, high-sensitivity, ultrafast, piezoelectric array that communicates with an integrated silicon processor chip, and presents an avenue for very early breast cancer detection.

In addition, the microarray shows great promise for laparoscopic robotic pediatric surgery and so-called "stealth surgery" that provides a doctor with interior views of the patient without ever having to make an incision.