April 9, 2009

New sensor ensures hospitals are hygienic

British scientists say they have created a sensor capable of measuring localized ultrasonic cavitations in research that will help hospitals remain hygienic.

Cavitations occur when bubbles implode in a liquid when a high frequency sound wave is applied. The researchers said their sensor, the first of its kind, will help hospitals ensure that their instruments are properly disinfected before they are used on patients.

Cavitation is used throughout the United Kingdom's National Health Service by doctors and dentists to clean and disinfect surgical instruments. A high frequency sound wave is passed through a disinfecting liquid to create bubbles that implode. The force of each implosion removes contaminate particles from surrounding materials.

Until now there has been no accurate method of identifying how much cavitation takes place at different locations in a cleaning system, and therefore no measurable way to ensure the cleaning process is effective. The researchers said the new sensor, developed by the U.K.'s National Physical Laboratory, monitors the acoustic signals generated when the bubbles implode and uses the sound to identify how much cavitation is taking place at a given location.

The device recently won the annual Outstanding Ultrasonics Product award from the Ultrasonic Industry Association.