As ultrasonic waves converge in the focal region, heat is lost to the surrounding fluid. This viscoelastic loss is concentrated in a very small area, in which temperatures can rise to above 120 C in a matter of seconds. The ability of high intensity focused ultrasound to create localized heat suggests numerous potential space and terrestrial applications. Since human cells cannot survive (even instantaneous) temperatures above 60 C, high intensity focused ultrasound might eventually be used to noninvasively kill cancerous tumors. Researchers at JPL are also investigating its use as a tool for future NASA missions to search for life on Europa.
Figure 1. Focal region temperatures
often exceed 60 C
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