Low-Cost Ultrasound Circuits for Imaging and Robotics

This project is about building low-cost ultrasounic phased arrays to enable biological monitoring.  The end goal of the project is building a passive fish-tracking system that can dramatically extend the lifetime of biological monitoring for the purpose of marine ecology, but there are a variety of intermediate applications that are well served by the project, like cheap scanning sonar or communication with micro-scale robots.

We’re pursuing this project because underwater communication, especially in the ocean, is challenging. Salt water absorbs radio waves, and sound waves, which are the most common alternative, have a long, unwieldly wavelength.  However, many of the innovations that help modern digital radios communicate have not yet been applied to underwater communication links, which means there is an opportunity to build some interesting ultrasound circuits.

Applicants for this role would, characterize the ultrasound array, develop imaging software, develop a second-generation ultrasound PCB, and assemble a robotic gantry in the test tank to automate our testing.

ESSAY PROMPT: Total length is ~3 paragraphs.  1. Tell me about a time you got stuck on a technical problem and how you got unstuck.  2. Explain why you're interested in this project and what you hope to get from it.

NOTE: Successful applicants to this project will be recruited to the research group during the spring semester and compensated with academic credit.  Full time, paid summer hires will be recruited from within the research group in the spring.

Name of research group, project, or lab
Analog Circuit Engineering Lab
Why join this research group or lab?

The Analog Circuit Engineering (ACE) lab is the best way to experience building and testing a circuit from start to finish before clinic.  If you want to build circuits, the ACE lab can get you there.

The ACE lab meetings are also ways to learn about the semiconductor industry, giving presentations and reading academic papers. Students have said that the meetings fun, relaxed, and a welcome chance to pursue interests of their choice.

Representative publication
Logistics Information:
Project categories
Circuit Design
Natural Resources and Conservation
Signal Processing
Student ranks applicable
Student qualifications

Applicants must have experience with basic electronics – E79 is sufficient, so is hobbyist electronics practice.

Applicants must sign up for at least one credit of research in the spring semester.

Physical requirements – The project requires lots of screen time both in design phases (looking at CAD models) and experiment phases (staring at oscilloscopes and monitors while programming).  It also requires the ability to manipulate test equipment in the test tank, which requires climbing ladders and some modest lifting and reaching.

Time commitment
Spring - Part Time
Summer - Full Time
Academic Credit
Paid Research
Number of openings
Techniques learned

Analog circuit design, printed circuit board design, microcontroller programming, signal processing, piezoelectric ultrasound resonator physics.

Contact Information:
Matthew Spencer
Name of project director or principal investigator
Matthew Spencer
Email address of project director or principal investigator
2 sp. | 9 appl.
Hours per week
Spring - Part Time (+1)
Spring - Part TimeSummer - Full Time
Project categories
Signal Processing (+3)
Circuit DesignNatural Resources and ConservationRoboticsSignal Processing