You are on page 1of 7

Appendix C

Complementary Laboratory Experiments

A system of group projects was developed during the evolution of the subject
matter of this book when used for teaching purposes. One format involved
the use of weekly problem sets for the fundamental part of the material
(Chapters 2 through 10), similar in type and level to the questions found at
the end of these chapters. During the second part of the course, two alter-
native schemes were used. One involved the assignment of term papers on
a special topic, examples of which are given at the end of this section. The
other, and more elaborate approach, consisted of experimental projects.
These projects were open-ended as opposed to set-piece laboratory experi-
ments. What was actually done depended on the students’ backgrounds,
availability of equipment, and qualified instructors. Hence it is stressed that
the notes given below should be seen as guidelines or suggestions as to how
a suitable laboratory component could be set up and not as formal, ready-
to-use laboratory methodology descriptions.
For this second part of the course, students were divided into teams of
two or three. A term project was carried out by each team, enabling the
students to go more in depth in a given area than they could have done
otherwise. Students were asked to divide up tasks in theory/computer cal-
culation on the one hand and experimental testing on the other. Typical
subject areas are given below. The approach was very flexible, a particular
aspect being worked out in consultation with the teacher, and the actual
work carried out under the guidance of a graduate student. The projects
were for approximately 1 month, after which the group compiled a single
report synthesising the work of all of the participants. The work was then
presented in a series of short oral presentations; instruction was given to
assist in preparing the report and making the presentation, which was of a
length and style similar to that of conference presentations. The advantage
of this approach was that students were generally very motivated to learn
the theoretical part and to carry out a successful project. Learning to work
in a team and acquiring communication skills were other advantages of this
The required material was largely accessible from research laboratories.
Computing requirements were modest and in all cases could be met with

© 2002 by CRC Press LLC

438 Fundamentals and Applications of Ultrasonic Waves

the departmental PCs. The laboratory equipment available included:

1. HP Model 4195A Network/Spectrum Analyzer

2. One of the following:
a. MATEC RF tone burst ultrasonic generator and receiver (10 to
90 MHz)
b. RITEC RAM 10000 tone burst ultrasonic generator and receiver
(1 to 100 MHz)
c. UTEX UT 320/340 Pulser/receiver or equivalent, such as those
produced by Panametrics or Metrotek (tone burst systems are
ideal for this type of experiment as they allow easy control and
variation of the frequency and quantitative verification of
frequency-dependent effects)
3. Standard RF attenuators, cables, etc.
4. Laboratory oscilloscope, ideally digital scope with FFT capability,
such as the 300 MHz LeCroy digital oscilloscope

A list of typical projects is given below, with notes on particular aspects that
can be easily investigated and compared with theory. This list is by no means
exhaustive, and it is easy to extend it by the procurement of modest addi-
tional resources, such as focusing transducers, additional buffer rods, means
of temperature variation and control, magnetic field etc.

1. Transducer characterization
It is useful to obtain a collection of piezoelectric transducers from
various sources. Commercially packaged resonators can easily be
obtained in the range 1 to 20 MHz, as can unmounted transducers,
longitudinal or transverse, with either fundamental or overtone
polish from suppliers such as Valpey Fisher Inc. In the latter case,
LiNbO3 transducers with a fundamental in the range of 5 to 15 MHz
and with overtone polish are the most convenient choice, typically
5 or 6 mm in diameter.
Transducer characterization is best made with respect to a well-
defined equivalent circuit. This could be a series resonant circuit in
parallel with the static capacitance (Butterworth–Van Dyke equiv-
alent circuit for resonators) or the full Mason Model for a loaded
transducer. Suggested experiments include:
a. Characterization of the resonance of an unloaded transducer
(resonator) using the network analyzer; determination of trans-
ducer parameters by measurement of amplitude and phase
response, as well as series and parallel resonant frequencies; iden-
tification of harmonic frequencies; effects of liquid loading on the
resonance for both longitudinal and transverse polarization.

© 2002 by CRC Press LLC

Appendix C 439

b. Frequency response of a transducer glued to a buffer rod, with

air loading on the opposite face. Points to verify include:
(i) Frequency response of the odd harmonics.
(ii) Use of inductors/RF transformers to increase the transducer
(iii) Observation of echoes in the buffer rod.
(iv) Comparison of shape of the first echo with that of the ex-
citing RF pulse; effect of bond quality on the echo shape.
2. Bulk acoustic wave (BAW) propagation
Experiments in this section are based around the use of a trans-
ducer mounted on the end of a buffer rod. Ideally, buffer rods made
of materials such as fused quartz, sapphire, etc. can be obtained
with end faces optically polished and parallel from suppliers such
as Valpey–Fisher. Otherwise, for studies in the low MHz range, it
is possible to machine and polish the end faces of materials such
as perspex, duraluminium, brass, stainless steel, etc., using stan-
dard workshop practices to obtain usable echo trains. Duralu-
minium is particularly useful due to its low attenuation and its
The buffer rod should have dimensions of the order of 1 cm in
length and 1 cm in diameter; these dimensions are not critical and
should be chosen so that the rod diameter is significantly greater
than that of the transducer, with the buffer long enough so that
clearly separated, nonoverlapping echoes are observed on the oscil-
loscope. Longitudinal transducers with overtone polish and a fun-
damental frequency of 5 or 10 MHz are recommended for the
experiments of this section. Such experiments include:
a. Mount the transducer on the end of the buffer rod with a suit-
able ultrasonic couplant; vacuum grease or silicon oil are con-
venient, as they give a good bond at room temperature which
is stable for a few hours and is easily changed. The transducer
bond can be improved by wringing it onto the buffer surface
using a soft rubber eraser, for example.
b. Tuning the generator to the transducer fundamental frequency;
observing echoes. Existence or not of an exponential decay of
the echo amplitudes should be registered. Transducer bond can
be optimized to give maximum echo amplitude.
c. Estimation of VL and comparison with the handbook value;
estimation of absolute and relative error.
d. Using the same transducer bond as above, steps (b) and (c) should
be repeated at odd harmonic frequencies up to the maximum
attainable values with the ultrasonic generator used. Variation
of the overall modulation of the echo train and the number of

© 2002 by CRC Press LLC

440 Fundamentals and Applications of Ultrasonic Waves

echoes is particularly significant. How can these be explained

for the particular buffer rod used?
e. For a machined buffer rod, remachine one end face so that there
are now nonparallel end faces to within a degree or so. Repeat
step (d) and explain any observed variation in the modulation
of the echo train.
3. BAW reflection and transmission
These experiments are most conveniently carried out with a buffer
rod with the end opposite the transducer partially immersed in a
liquid. In this configuration it is possible to measure reflection at nor-
mal incidence and transmission and reflection from a plate immersed
in the liquid. The appropriate theoretical values can be calculated
using the theory of Chapter 7. Recommended experiments are:
a. Use a 5- or 10-MHz longitudinal wave transducer bonded to
one end of the buffer rod as in experiment #2; prepare buffer
rods of plexiglass, duraluminum, and stainless steel, which form
a convenient trio of buffer rods that have low, medium, and
high acoustic mismatch to liquids such as water; design and
construct sample holders to enable the far end to be immersed
in a fluid bath.
b. Pulse echo experiments at low frequency in bare buffer rod;
adjustment for obtaining maximum number of echoes.
c. Exposure of the end of the buffer rod to the fluid in question;
recording of the echo pattern and comparison with that for the
unexposed rod; calculation of the reflection coefficient for each
echo; draw conclusions on the accuracy of the method vs. echo
d. Systematic study of the three buffer rods against three different
liquids with significantly different acoustic impedances; com-
pare with theory.
e. For a given liquid-solid combination at a given frequency, cal-
culate the material and thickness of the layer needed to minimize
the reflected signal; attempt to verify this result experimentally.
f. Repeat (c) for the case where there is a reflecting plate immersed
in the liquid; trace possible ray paths for various returning
echoes in the buffer; compare with experiment to identify all
observed echoes; estimate the reflection coefficient at the fluid-
plate interface.
4. SAW device fabrication, measurement, and sensor applications
IDTs operating at about 50 MHz can be made very easily in a standard
darkroom using photolithography techniques using the following
materials; Y-Z LiNbO3 SAW plates, about 15 mm long, 10 mm wide,
and 0.5 mm thick; mask for standard transmitter–receiver transducer

© 2002 by CRC Press LLC

Appendix C 441

design, required to have an impedance of 50 Ω when used with

the chosen substrate; 10 finger pairs for two transducers about 10 mm
apart, aperture approximately 5 mm for Y-Z lithium niobate. The
steps for transducer fabrication are as follows:
a. Clean the substrate with acetone and soak in methanol.
b. Deposit approximately 200 nm film of aluminum by flash
c. Deposit a photo-resist film by pipette on the substrate in yellow
light conditions. Incline the substrate to drain off excess photo-
d. Bake the photo-resist film at 120°C for at least 15 min to harden
the film.
e. Clamp the mask on top of the photo-resist film and expose to
ultraviolet light for the recommended time.
f. Remove the mask in darkness and dip the substrate for a few
moments in NaOH to remove the exposed portions of the photo-
resist. The remaining photo-resist protects the aluminum during
g. Etch the plate in a solution of HNO3 , HCl, and H2O, removing
it rapidly at the required moment to avoid overetching.
h. Thoroughly rinse the plate and then remove excess photo-resist
with a small amount of NaOH.
If sufficient time and facilities are not available for in-house fabri-
cation, then finished SAW plates with IDTs can be bought from the
A number of instructive experiments can be carried out using
the SAW device. These include:
a. Testing the frequency response with the network analyzer: a
power splitter can be used to provide a reference signal, enabling
tracing of the insertion loss as a function of frequency. The result
should be compared with the expected theoretical response.
b. Transducer matching: if the impedance is 50 Ω, then it remains
to tune out the static capacitance, here about 0.3 pF. This is most
conveniently done with a variable inductance in series with the
c. Timing flight measurement: the transmitting transducer is ex-
cited by a low-amplitude tone burst. To prevent burnout of the
IDTs it is advisable to use a fixed attenuator (PAD) of 10 or 20 dB
in series with the input if high power sources such as the Matec
are used. The source and receiver are tuned to the IDT central
frequency. Absolute and relative Rayleigh wave velocity of the
substrate can be measured in this way. Compare the measured
value with that given in the tables.

© 2002 by CRC Press LLC

442 Fundamentals and Applications of Ultrasonic Waves

d. Liquid loading by leaky waves can be demonstrated very effec-

tively by putting a drop of water on the substrate between the
electrodes; the propagated acoustic signal immediately disap-
pears. It is instructive to repeat the experiment with liquids of
lower acoustic impedance and increased volatility, such as acetone.
e. Transforming the SAW device into an oscillator is easily accom-
plished by placing an RF amplifier into a feedback loop con-
nected between the two IDTs, in series with an RF attenuator.
The attenuator setting must be low enough so that the loop gain
exceeds the losses. Interesting conclusions can be drawn from
the behavior of the signal across the device observed on an
oscilloscope at high and low values of attenuation. The oscilla-
tion frequency should be measured with a frequency counter.
f. Using the SAW device as a temperature sensor is possible due
to the temperature dependence of the sound velocity in LiNbO3,
which gives rise to a predicted temperature variation of the
propagation time as 94 ppm/°C. In light of the discussion in
Chapter 13, this can easily be measured as the frequency shift
of the oscillator in the preceding section, which is directly pro-
portional to the delay time, hence the velocity variation. The
SAW substrate can be placed on a cold plate and then a hot
plate to cover a temperature range of about 100°C, around room
temperature. A calibrated thermometer should be attached to
the SAW substrate, which should then be cycled slowly in tem-
perature. Readings of the frequency shift at various fixed tem-
peratures should be made; the frequency shift vs. temperature
should give a linear variation of a value close to that predicted.
5. Advanced experiments
There are a number of more advanced experiments of potential
interest, but they rely on the availability of specialized equipment.
These possibilities will be mentioned only briefly here; they have
been found to be relatively easy to set up and to be instructive,
even if carried out at an elementary level.
a. Acoustic radiation measurement by hydrophone and water
If an ultrasonic immersion test bath with x-y-z micropositioners
is available, then this provides a suitable means for measuring
the acoustic radiation patterns of immersion transducers. Im-
mersion transducers can be purchased from vendors such as
Panametrics. Detection is carried out by a needle hydrophone
which contains a small pointlike piezoelectric detector such that
it does not perturb the acoustic field. Measurement of the radi-
ation pattern of a transducer and comparison with theory for
both near field and far field is feasible.

© 2002 by CRC Press LLC

Appendix C 443

b. Acoustic microscopy: if a low-frequency acoustic microscope is

available, there are a number of simple experiments that can be
performed with few complications. The most direct of these is
experimental verification of the resolution of an acoustic lens. The
lens is focused on the edge of a plate and scanned in a direction
perpendicular to the plate edge at constant height. It is important
that the lens axis be vertical and the plate accurately adjusted to
be horizontal. Over the plate the reflected amplitude is constant,
and it then decreases continuously to zero as the focal point is
scanned away from the plate edge into the bulk liquid. The width
of the resulting curve gives the resolution. This can then be com-
pared with theory for the lens opening and frequency used.
A second instructive experiment, done in the same configuration
as above, is the measurement of a V(z) curve. The lens axis is
centered on the middle of the plate, roughly in the focal position.
In this case the x,y coordinates of the lens are held fixed, and the
plate is scanned along the z axis toward the plate. A series of
maxima and minima are observed as described in Chapter 14. The
result can be used to deduce the Rayleigh wave velocity in the
plate, which can then be compared to the tabulated value.
c. Schlieren imaging: if a Schlieren imaging system is available, then
it is the tool of choice to image the propagation paths of ultrasonic
waves. Typical operation is at 10 MHz in a water bath. Phenom-
ena such as direct reflection and Schoch displacement are easily
observable, as is the imaging of a focused acoustic beam.
6. Topics for term papers
If suitable ultrasonic equipment is not available for experimental
projects, then term papers involving literature searches and sum-
maries on specific topics are useful. Possible topics include:
Ultrasonic tomography
Fresnel acoustic lens
SAW biosensors
SAW gas sensors
SAW temperature senors
Acoustic spectrum analyser
Laser generation of ultrasound
Equivalent circuit model of IDTs
Acoustoelectric effect

© 2002 by CRC Press LLC