Life Science / Biology Essay


Ultrasonic Waves Properties and Use

In 1893, Francis Galton invented a revolutionary technology: the Galton whistle. According to Wikipedia, the Galton whistle was an adjustable whistle that produces ultrasound and was used to compare the auditory range of animals with that of humans. After his experiment, Galton was able to demonstrate that a quite large number of animals have a better auditory or sound reception range than humans.

Even though prior to this time, the science of sounds (or acoustics) had always been a particularly unique discipline that had received special attention amongst scholars in the field of mathematics and science, it wasn't until later in 1917, when Paul Langevin tested a more advanced version of the ultrasound technology for the detection of submarines, did ultrasound start to become extremely popular.

Today, ultrasound, and the use of it, has even spread wide to other scientific disciplines like medicine, pediatrics, archaeology and so on (Hangiandreou, 2003), which is why, in this article, we'll be examining the topic above, “ultrasonic waves properties and use”, for us to understand its specific importance and purposes in science.

1. Ultrasound

According to Cheke (2002), ultrasound is concerned with the “transmission of acoustic waves in isotropic media”. It is described as sound waves which possess higher frequencies that fall beyond the average frequency range/limit of human hearing. Ultrasound has the typical properties of auditory reception, however, it cannot be heard by humans. This is because of the typical threshold of the human hearing; measured at 20000Hz (20kHz). A normal and healthy adult cannot hear frequencies that are over 20 kHz, which is the upper auditory limit of humans. (Knorr et al., 2011). Generally, ultrasonic technologies can be used to detect objects and measure distances and are commonly used in medicine to produce images of the inner parts of the body.

2. Waves

Waves, in the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary, has been defined as the pattern in which some types of energy such as sound, light, sound, and heat are spread and carried.

3. Ultrasonic Waves

Ultrasonic waves are frequencies that fall beyond 20 kHz. They usually exceed 25 MHz and are used for non-destructive tests, medical applications, and also in the cleaning and welding of jewelry and plastics, respectively.

4. Properties

In this sense, properties (noun) refer to the qualities or characteristics that an object or material possesses. The identifiable features abilities of a particular object or element are usually referred to as it's “properties”.

5. Use

“Use” (noun) refers to the application and/or purposes of a particular thing.

Properties of Ultrasonic Waves

1. One basic property of ultrasonic waves is that they cannot travel through a vacuum. Typically, sound waves cannot travel through a vacuum, because they do not contain (or may contain only a very few) particles for vibration. Ultrasound is sound waves, and typically like sound waves, they can also travel through media like solids, liquids, and gases.

2. Ultrasonic waves are longitudinal waves, they travel in a single direction or line.

3. Ultrasonic waves also move via a particular medium with a speed of sound.

4. Ultrasound like light waves also reflects or refract.

5. An ultrasonic wave reflects when materials converge or interface with the acoustic flow (acoustic impedance).

6. Ultrasonic waves have also been said to develop vibrations when traveling through liquids of low density.

7. Ultrasound can be used to weld certain metals, plastic and so on

8. The speed of ultrasonic sound waves is of a relatively high media density.

9. Another fundamental attribute of sound waves is the inability of their energy to be retained in gases.

10. Ultrasound can also efficiently travel through solids and liquid than they can through gases.

11. While moving through a medium, ultrasound gradually attenuates by becoming weaker more and more. Ultrasonic waves that have a higher frequency have been shown to also possess the attribute of higher attenuation.


In the technology unit, ultrasound has been used for different things, ranging from food processing and preservation to homographic imaging, and object detection and ranging (Papadakis EP, 1999 and Hangiandreou, 2003). Ultrasound can be used to inactivate or arrest microorganisms and enzymes in conditions of mild temperature for pasteurization and preservation of food substances. This is used to invariably improve the quality of foods and the period of time they can last for (Betts, Williams and Oakley, 2000).

Also, ultrasound is commonly used range search or measurements. This is referred to as SONAR (that is, sound navigation and ranging), and like the radio detection and ranging (RADAR), they generate an ultrasonic pulse in a straight line/direction. If on the path of this ultrasonic pulse, any object is detected, a part of this pulse reflects as an echo to receiver the receiver of the transmitter. The distance of the object is then quickly determined based on the measurement of the transmission and reception time of the pulse. Ultrasound has also been used in nondestructive testing since the second World War. This test is used to detect the to measure the object density and the flaws in some materials (Buschow, et al., 2001).

Ultrasound is also used for diagnostic sonography. The waves are used to picture the internal parts of the human body like tendons, muscles, and so on (Papadakis, 1999). Real-time homographic images and then produced to view the structure and shape of thee organs in the body. Paediatrics also use ultrasound to produce real-time images of the fetuses of pregnant women, whether routinely or in times of emergencies. Such use is commonly referred to as obstetric sonography (Cheeke, 2002).

Lastly, for the transfer of heat in liquids, ultrasound can also be applied (Pollet, 2012). Researchers have also recently found out that it can be used in the enhanced production ethanol in dry corn milling plants (Akin et al., 2006; Neis, Nickel, and Tiehm, 2000). “


Akin B, Khanal SK, Sung S, Grewell D (2006). "Ultrasound pre-treatment of waste activated sludge". Water Science and Technology: Water Supply. 6 (6): 35

Betts GD, Williams A, Oakley RM (2000). "Inactivation of Food-borne Microorganisms using Power Ultrasound". In Robinson RK, Batt CA, Patel PD (eds.). Encyclopedia of Food Microbiology. Academic Press. p. 2202.

Buschow KH, et al., eds. (2001). Encyclopedia of Materials. Elsevier. p. 5990.

Cheeke, J.D.N.. (2002). Fundamentals and Applications of Ultrasonic Waves. 10.1201/b12260.

Hangiandreou NJ (2003). "AAPM/RSNA physics tutorial for residents. Topics in US: B-mode US: basic concepts and new technology". Radiographics. 23 (4): 1019–33.

Neis U, Nickel K, Tiehm A (2000). "Enhancement of anaerobic sludge digestion by ultrasonic disintegration". Water Science and Technology. 42 (9): 73.

Papadakis EP, ed. (1999). Ultrasonic Instruments & Devices. Academic Press. p. 752.

Pollet B (2012). "Chapter 1". Power Ultrasound in Electrochemistry: From Versatile Laboratory Tool to Engineering Solution. John Wiley & Sons.


Ultrasonic Waves AccessedUltrasonic Waves Properties and Use, 8 Apr. 2020, at

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