Method and Apparatus for In-Line Photoacoustic Imaging

Case ID:

This technology is an optical system consisting of a right angle prism, or thin parallel plate, in conjunction with water, an index matching fluid, or some other liquid, that completely reflects acoustic waves to and from an array ultrasound transducer while being optically transparent. The geometry allows simultaneous direct illumination, with high-energy laser pulses, of the region imaged by the ultrasound transducer array.  This extends the existing capabilities of an ultrasound transducer with the ability to acquire photoacoustic data.

This device addresses the challenge of illuminating thick samples with relatively large transducer arrays impeding the direct illumination of the imaging area. This is the first known method of directly illuminating thick media for imaging with array transducers without redirecting the light around the transducer or custom designing the transducer.

The photoacoustic effect is a conversion between light and acoustic waves due to absorption and localized thermal excitation. When rapid pulses of light are incident on a sample of matter, they can be absorbed and the resulting energy will then be radiated as heat. This heat causes detectable sound waves due to pressure variation in the surrounding medium.


  • Simple design
  • Potentially enables the development of low cost photoacoustic probes built upon existing ultrasound probes
  • Simplifies setup for medical imaging and biomedical research


  • Medical diagnostic applications, potentially ranging from cancer detection to aiding in the early diagnosis of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s

Status: issued U.S. Patent #8,879,352 - Ultrasonic/photoacoustic imaging devices and methods and U.S. Patent #10,241,199 - Ultrasonic/photoacoustic imaging devices and methods

Patent Information:
Contact For More Information:
Garrett Edmunds
Licensing Manager, UAHS-TLA
The University of Arizona
Lead Inventor(s):
Russell Witte
Leonardo Gabriel Montilla
Ragnar Olafsson