Another non-invasive therapy using ultrasound instead of electricity, is being pioneered by IEEE Fellow Pai-Chu Li, who has worked with medical equipment giant Genesis Logic to refine ultrasound to 30 micron resolution enabling cheap accurate noninvasive realtime diagnostics. By harnessing the computational power of graphics processor units (GPUs) already resident in laptops and tablets, Li has created image analysis tools capable of measuring the size of tumors as wells as map out their exact location in 3-D space.
However Li's most novel research project to date uses ultrasound to realize wireless power transfer to implants, such as neural stimulators that mitigate the effects of Alzheimer's, epilepsy and, like professor Lu's implants, the elimination of chronic pain with digital signal processing.
"The advantage of ultrasound over radio frequencies is that ultrasound can be focused very precisely in order to transfer more energy in a shorter amount of time," said Li.
Ultrasound can be focused to a depth of about eight inches, enabling it to directly stimulate an implant, or to recharge the batteries of a pacemaker without surgery. Li's lab has also developed a microchip that can receive coded ultrasound signals that program attached micro-controllers, so that smart implants can be reprogrammed thought the skin.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is already higher resolution than ultrasound, but requires a million-dollar room-filling device to make it work. Unfortunately, all that bulk and expense is being powered by 20th century electronics, according to NTU professors Jyh-Horng Chen and Tzi-Dar Chiueh. By upgrading the encoding of the MRI signal from narrow-band amplitude-modulation (AM) to wide-band frequency-modulation (FM)--where different types of tissues resonant at different frequencies, Chen and Chiueh, have been able to increase the resolution of MRI's by 10-times while simultaneously reducing the scan times by 4-to-8 times.
Endoscope in a pill
Anther non-invasive technology being pioneered at NTU puts an endoscope--a tiny video camera for inspecting the inside of the stomach, intestines and veins--inside a pill that can be swallowed. Other endoscopes-in-a-pill have been designed elsewhere, but their effectiveness is hit-or-miss, since they cannot be controlled once swallowed. However, NTU professors Chih-Wen Liu, Cheng-Long Chuang and Joe-Air Jiang, have designed a magnetic wand that allows it to turn, twist and perform fine navigation manipulations of their endoscope-in-a pill, allowing physicians to hunt down tumors, ulcers and other medical problems while watching on monitors in realtime. The team has also adapted the method to navigate tethered encoscopes during colonoscopies, thus cutting down the examination time and increasing the reliability of results.