National Physical Laboratory

High power ultrasound and acoustic cavitation

High power ultrasound has been used globally in industry for 60 years, in applications such as cleaning and more recently, the processing of materials for waste remediation and pharmaceutical manufacture. Many applications are driven by acoustic cavitation, described briefly as the growth, oscillation and collapse of microbubbles in the medium of interest. Despite its widespread use, there are no standardised measurement methods for acoustic cavitation, and leading-edge research is ongoing at NPL to develop measurement techniques suitable for standardisation.

Significant progress has been made in two areas in recent years – the development of a reference cavitating vessel, and of a novel patented cavitation sensor. Details on both of these may be found by following the links above.

Current research

In response to user needs, and to extend the capability provided by the existing 25 kHz reference vessel, a new multiple frequency reference facility is being established. It is intended that this may be used with a wide variety of cavitation detection methods. This will be undertaken in collaboration and consultation with users, and supports the medium to long-term research aim of an accepted measurement unit for cavitation, suitable for standardisation.

Building on previous feasibility studies, a method for quantifying the performance of vessels used in cleaning medical instruments will be developed, again in collaboration with the user community, and trialled at UK Hospitals.

To disseminate the results of the two main research areas, a Measurement Club will be established, and annual meetings held. This will provide a forum for discussion with users and manufacturers, and will help to inform the relevant IEC Committee on which NPL is represented.

For more information: Mark Hodnett

Last Updated: 29 Mar 2012
Created: 29 May 2007


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