Conventional ultrasound systems acquire ultrasound data sequentially one image line at a time. The architecture of these systems is therefore also sequential in nature and processes most of the data in a sequential pipeline. This often makes it difficult to implement radically different imaging strategies on the platforms and makes the scanners less accessible for research purposes. For a system designed for imaging research flexibility is the prime concern. The possibility of sending out arbitrary signals and the storage of data from all transducer elements for 5 to 10 seconds allows clinical evaluation of synthetic aperture and 3D imaging. This paper describes a real-time system specifically designed for research purposes. The system can acquire multi-channel data in real-time from multi-element ultrasound transducers, and can perform some real-time processing on the acquired data. The system is capable of performing real-time beamforming for conventional imaging methods using linear, phased, and convex arrays. Image acquisition modes can be intermixed, and this makes it possible to perform initial trials in a clinical environment with new imaging modalities for synthetic aperture imaging, 2D and 3D B-mode and velocity imaging using advanced coded emissions. The system can be used with 128 element transducers and can excite 128 transducer elements and receive and sample data from 64 channels simultaneously at 40 MHz with 12 bits precision. Two-to-one multiplexing in receive can be used to cover 128 receive channels. Data can be beamformed in real time using the system s 80 signal processing units, or it can be stored directly in RAM. The system has 16 Gbytes RAM and can, thus, store more than 3.4 seconds of multi-channel data. It is fully software programmable and its signal processing units can also be reconfigured under software control. The control of the system is done over a 100 Mbit/s Ethernet using C and Matlab. Programs for doing e.g. B-mode imaging can directly be written in Matlab and executed on the system over the net from any workstation running Matlab. The overall system concept is presented along with its implementation and examples of B-mode and in-vivo synthetic aperture flow imaging.
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