Synthetic Aperture Techniques With a Virtual Source Element

IEEE Trans Ultrason Ferroelectr Freq Control. 1998;45(1):196-207. doi: 10.1109/58.646925.

Abstract

A new imaging technique has been proposed that combines conventional B-mode and synthetic aperture imaging techniques to overcome the limited depth of field for a highly focused transducer. The new technique improves lateral resolution beyond the focus of the transducer by considering the focus a virtual element and applying synthetic aperture focusing techniques. In this paper, the use of the focus as a virtual element is examined, considering the issues that are of concern when imaging with an array of actual elements: the tradeoff between lateral resolution and sidelobe level, the tradeoff between system complexity (channel count/amount of computation) and the appearance of grating lobes, and the issue of signal to noise ratio (SNR) of the processed image. To examine these issues, pulse-echo RF signals were collected for a tungsten wire in degassed water, monofilament nylon wires in a tissue-mimicking phantom, and cyst targets in the phantom. Results show apodization lowers the sidelobes, but only at the expense of lateral resolution, as is the case for classical synthetic aperture imaging. Grating lobes are not significant until spatial sampling is more than one wavelength, when the beam is not steered. Resolution comparable to the resolution at the transducer focus can be achieved beyond the focal region while obtaining an acceptable SNR. Specifically, for a 15-MHz focused transducer, the 6-dB beamwidth at the focus is 157 mum, and with synthetic aperture processing the 6-dB beamwidths at 3, 5, and 7 mm beyond the focus are 189 mum, 184 mum, and 215 mum, respectively. The image SNR is 38.6 dB when the wire is at the focus, and it is 32.8 dB, 35.3 dB, and 38.1 dB after synthetic aperture processing when the wire is 3, 5, and 7 mm beyond the focus, respectively. With these experiments, the virtual source has been shown to exhibit the same behavior as an actual transducer element in response to synthetic aperture processing techniques.