Capacitive Transducers

Capacitive Ultrasonic Transducers (CUTs)

Capacitive ultrasonic transducers (CUTs) are efficient devices for generating and detecting ultrasound in air. Sometimes referred to as electrostatic transducers, the devices are essentially a parallel-plate capacitor with one rigid immovable electrode (the "backplate") and one flexible movable electrode (the "membrane" or "film"). The membrane is typically a dielectric polymer, such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET, or Mylar), electroded on one side with aluminium. A dc biasing voltage is usually applied, such that opposing charges build up on the two electrodes and the membrane is attracted to the backplate. Small pockets of air become trapped between the membrane and backplate, and the response of the transducer is largely determined by the membrane thickness and mass, and the surface profile of the backplate, as this dictates the size and number of the air pockets.

Receiver operation

When operating as a receiver, an ultrasonic wave striking the membrane causes it to displace, and as the separation between the two electrodes changes, a corresponding proportional change in charge is also produced, which may be detected and amplified using suitable electronics. Capacitive ultrasonic transducers are highly efficient as both transmitters and receivers; a typical signal across a 10mm air gap is shown on the left.

Receiver Operation

Relevant publications

  • S. G. McSweeney and W. M. D. Wright, "Improving the Bandwidth of Air Coupled Capacitive Ultrasonic Transducers Using Selective Networks", Proc. 2008 IEEE Ultrasonics Symposium, pp. 1191-1194 (2008)
  • W. M. D. Wright, P. Ingleby and I. J. O'Sullivan, "Air-coupled through-transmission fan-beam tomography using divergent Capacitive Ultrasonic Transducers (CUTs)", IEEE Trans. Ultrason. Ferroelec. Freq. Contr., Vol. UFFC-52, No. 12, pp. 2384-2394 (2005)
  • W. M. D. Wright and D. A. Hutchins, "Monitoring of binder removal from injection molded ceramics using air-coupled ultrasound at high temperature", IEEE Trans. Ultrason. Ferroelec. Freq. Contr., Vol. UFFC-46, No. 3, pp. 647-653 (1999)
  • W. M. D. Wright and D. A. Hutchins, "Air-coupled ultrasonic testing of metals using broadband pulses in through-transmission", Ultrasonics, Vol. 37, No. 1, pp. 19-22 (1999)
  • D. A. Hutchins, D. W. Schindel, A. G. Bashford and W. M. D. Wright, "Advances in ultrasonic electrostatic transduction", Ultrasonics, Vol. 36, No. 1-5, pp. 1-6 (1998)

Ultrasonics Research Group

Electrical and Electronic Engineering, School of Engineering, University College Cork, College Road, Cork, Ireland