Development of a 64 channel ultrasonic high frequency linear array imaging system

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★ This manuscript reports on the design and performances of a high frequency (35MHz) ultrasound imaging system. ★ The system comprises a 30 MHz 256-element array transducer, a 64-channel Tx/Rx and a 64-channel FPGA-based beamformer. ★ The system performance has been evaluated using wire phantom, tissue-mimic phantom and ex vivo tissues.

In order to improve the lateral resolution and extend the field of view of a previously reported 48 element 30 MHz ultrasound linear array and 16-channel digital imaging system, the development of a 256 element 30 MHz linear array and an ultrasound imaging system with increased channel count has been undertaken. This paper reports the design and testing of a 64 channel digital imaging system which consists of an analog front-end pulser/receiver, 64 channels of Time-Gain Compensation (TGC), 64 channels of high-speed digitizer as well as a beamformer. A Personal Computer (PC) is used as the user interface to display real-time images. This system is designed as a platform for the purpose of testing the performance of high frequency linear arrays that have been developed in house. Therefore conventional approaches were taken it its implementation. Flexibility and ease of use are of primary concern whereas consideration of cost-effectiveness and novelty in design are only secondary. Even so, there are many issues at higher frequencies but do not exist at lower frequencies need to be solved. The system provides 64 channels of excitation pulsers while receiving simultaneously at a 20–120 MHz sampling rate to 12-bits. The digitized data from all channels are first fed through Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs), and then stored in memories. These raw data are accessed by the beamforming processor to re-build the image or to be downloaded to the PC for further processing. The beamformer that applies delays to the echoes of each channel is implemented with the strategy that combines coarse (8.3 ns) and fine delays (2 ns). The coarse delays are integer multiples of the sampling clock rate and are achieved by controlling the write enable pin of the First-In-First-Out (FIFO) memory to obtain valid beamforming data. The fine delays are accomplished with interpolation filters. This system is capable of achieving a maximum frame rate of 50 frames per second. Wire phantom images acquired with this system show a spatial resolution of 146 μm (lateral) and 54 μm (axial). Images with excised rabbit and pig eyeball as well as mouse embryo were also acquired to demonstrate its imaging capability.

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