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University of Michigan researching ultrasonic scalpel

Hyoung Won Baac
University of Michigan

The University of Michigan is researching an ultrasound scalpel that can detach a single cancer cell from surrounding tissue. 

The team, led by Professor Jay Guo, found a way to change laser light into sound energy.  The technology works with pressure, rather than heat. 

Hyoung Won Baac worked on this project as a doctoral student.  He says the beam will allow surgeons to be extremely delicate because of its size. 

"Our hair is a single hair which is around 100 micrometer.  So our focal spot, the sound beam focus spot is actually smaller than that."

The U of M researchers' system is unique because it converts the light to sound, then focuses the beam to a tiny spot and amplifies the signal through very efficient carbon nanotubes.

Baac added the technology may allow a surgeon to be extremely delicate.

"Microcutting tumor tissues without touching anything, you know, surrounding blood vessels…all just by these strong sound waves," Baac said.

He says the technology has the potential to make painless surgery possible, since the beam is small enough to avoid nerve fibers.

- Chris Zollars, Michigan Radio Newsroom