Front-End Ultrasound IC Provides Breakthrough Levels of Performance for Cart-Based and Portable Ultrasound Imaging Equipment

16th July 2009
ES Admin
Maxim has introduced the MAX2078, said to be the world's lowest power, octal, ultrasound front-end solution with integrated mixer-based CWD (continuous-wave Doppler) beamformer. The MAX2078 represents the latest generation of high-performance, low-power ultrasound cores from Maxim, and leverages the Company's industry-leading expertise in LNA, VGA, and CWD technology. It combines an active-input-termination LNA, VGA, anti-alias filter, and I/Q mixer CWD beamformer in one fully integrated, monolithic device.
The MAX2078 targets high-channel-count, cart-based and portable ultrasound medical imaging applications where size and power are constrained and performance must be optimized. This front-end IC delivers the lowest noise and the highest dynamic range of any competing low-power, fully integrated ultrasound front-end. In addition, the MAX2078 utilizes Maxim's patented mixer-based CWD solution and is fully compliant with all known ultrasound beamforming patents.

In ultrasound applications, enhanced image quality and sensitivity are often regarded as the key differentiators among competing systems. This is especially true in the highly competitive, small, cart-based and portable imaging segment where performance is often sacrificed to achieve the constrained size and power requirements. Image quality and sensitivity are directly affected by the ultrasound receiver's noise figure, dynamic range, and image resolution.

The receiver's noise figure determines the weakest signal levels (i.e., ultrasound echoes) that can be detected by the imaging system. An excellent noise figure improves the system's sensitivity to these weak signals, thus allowing it to image at deeper depths and detect weaker Doppler blood-flow signals.

Dynamic range is a measure of the system's ability to detect these important weak signals in the presence of large extraneous signals. An excellent dynamic range is particularly critical for second-harmonic imaging modalities, where strong signals at the fundamental imaging frequency can interfere with the weaker signals of interest at the second harmonic. Exceptional dynamic range is also necessary for all pulsed and continuous Doppler modalities, where large clutter signals from stationary reflectors can interfere with the weak Doppler signals of interest, sometimes located less than 1kHz away.

Finally, imaging resolution in a phased-array ultrasound receiver strongly correlates with the number of receive channels. The greater the number of channels supported, the larger the receive aperture that can be supported and the better the image resolution and quality. Large channel counts necessary to support larger apertures and improved image resolution put significant constraints on the cost, power, and size of small cart-based and portable ultrasound-system receiver front-end solutions.

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