Ultrasound vs Ultrasonic: Difference and Comparison

Ultrasound refers to sound waves with frequencies higher than the upper limit of human hearing, typically above 20,000 hertz. It is widely used in medical imaging to visualize internal structures of the body. On the other hand, ultrasonic pertains to any sound wave beyond the range of human hearing, encompassing both audible and inaudible frequencies.

Key Takeaways

  1. Ultrasound refers to using sound waves above the range of human hearing to produce images of internal body structures. In contrast, ultrasonic refers to using high-frequency sound waves for various applications, including medical imaging, cleaning, and welding.
  2. Ultrasound is commonly used for medical diagnosis and monitoring, while ultrasonic is used in various industrial and scientific applications.
  3. Ultrasound requires specialized equipment and training, while ultrasonic applications vary widely in complexity and accessibility.

Ultrasound vs Ultrasonic

Ultrasound is used to describe a medical imaging technique that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of internal organs and tissues. Ultrasonic is a term which means the use of high-frequency sound waves in applications such as cleaning, measuring distance, and detecting objects.

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Diagnostic ultrasound, known as sonography as well as diagnostic and interventional sonography, is a type of scanning that employs high-frequency sound waves to create images of things inside the body. The images can be used to help diagnose and treat a wide range of diseases and disorders.

Ultrasonic testing (UT) refers to a class of non-destructive testing (NDT) methods, including the passage of ultrasonic waves through such an object or surface. Very high-frequency sound vibrations are delivered into components to evaluate the substance or find flaws.

Comparison Table

Meaning1. Sound waves with frequencies higher than the upper limit of human hearing (typically above 20 kHz). 2. The application of these sound waves for various purposes (e.g., medical imaging, cleaning)Refers to anything related to sound waves with frequencies above 20 kHz
Frequency RangeAbove 20 kHz (can vary depending on application)Above 20 kHz
Applications– Medical imaging (ultrasound scans) – Cleaning (ultrasonic cleaners) – Material testing (NDT) – Animal communication (e.g., bats)– All applications of ultrasound (listed above) – Additional applications like welding, humidification, and pest control (may use different frequencies)
FocusCan refer to the sound waves themselves or their applicationRefers specifically to the sound waves

What is Ultrasound?

Ultrasound, also known as sonography, is a medical imaging technique that utilizes high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the internal structures of the human body. This non-invasive and radiation-free imaging method has a wide range of applications, ranging from diagnostic purposes to monitoring fetal development during pregnancy.

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Principles of Ultrasound

Generation of Sound Waves

Ultrasound imaging involves the use of a transducer, a device that emits high-frequency sound waves. These waves are typically inaudible to the human ear, with frequencies above 20,000 hertz. The transducer converts electrical energy into sound waves, which are then directed into the body.

Reflection and Echo Formation

When these sound waves encounter tissues and organs within the body, they are partially reflected back to the transducer. The reflected waves, or echoes, are then converted into electrical signals by the transducer. The system analyzes the time taken for the echoes to return, and this information is used to create detailed images of the internal structures.

Applications of Ultrasound

Diagnostic Imaging

Ultrasound is widely employed for diagnostic purposes in various medical specialties. It is commonly used to visualize the organs in the abdomen, such as the liver, kidneys, and gallbladder. Additionally, ultrasound is valuable in assessing the cardiovascular system, muscles, joints, and soft tissues.

Obstetric and Gynecological Imaging

One of the most well-known applications of ultrasound is in obstetrics and gynecology. It plays a crucial role in monitoring fetal development during pregnancy, providing detailed images of the fetus and the uterus. Ultrasound is also utilized for evaluating the female reproductive system, detecting abnormalities, and assisting in fertility treatments.

Interventional Ultrasound

In some cases, ultrasound is used in conjunction with medical procedures. This includes guiding needle biopsies, draining fluid from cysts, and aiding in the placement of catheters or drainage tubes. The real-time imaging capabilities of ultrasound make it a valuable tool in minimally invasive interventions.

Advantages and Limitations


  • Non-Invasiveness: Ultrasound imaging is non-invasive, avoiding the need for surgical procedures or radiation exposure.
  • Real-Time Imaging: The ability to provide real-time images allows for dynamic observations during medical procedures.
  • Cost-Effective: Compared to other imaging modalities, ultrasound is generally more cost-effective.


  • Limited Penetration: Ultrasound waves have limited penetration through bone and air, which may hinder imaging in certain areas.
  • Operator Dependency: The quality of ultrasound images can be operator-dependent, relying on the skill and experience of the sonographer.
  • Limited Resolution in Obese Patients: Images may be of lower resolution in patients with excessive body weight.

What is Ultrasonic?

Ultrasonics refers to a branch of science and technology that deals with the study and application of ultrasound waves. Ultrasound is a form of acoustic wave with a frequency higher than the upper limit of human hearing, typically above 20,000 hertz (Hz). This technology finds widespread use in various fields, ranging from medical diagnostics and imaging to industrial applications and cleaning processes.

Principles of Ultrasonics

At its core, ultrasonics relies on the principles of sound wave propagation. Ultrasonic waves are mechanical vibrations that travel through a medium, often air or water. The key characteristic of ultrasound is its high frequency, allowing for shorter wavelengths and more precise interactions with materials. The wave propagation involves the creation of compressions and rarefactions, leading to the generation of pressure waves.

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Medical Applications

In the realm of medicine, ultrasonics plays a pivotal role in diagnostic imaging. Ultrasound devices use high-frequency sound waves to produce real-time images of internal structures within the human body. This non-invasive technique is widely employed for imaging organs, monitoring fetal development during pregnancy, and guiding minimally invasive procedures.

Industrial Applications

Ultrasonic technology finds extensive use in various industrial applications. One notable area is non-destructive testing (NDT), where ultrasonic waves are utilized to inspect the integrity of materials without causing damage. Additionally, ultrasonic cleaners employ high-frequency waves to remove contaminants from surfaces, making them effective in industries such as electronics and precision manufacturing.

Ultrasonic Sensors

Ultrasonic sensors are devices that use the principles of ultrasonics for distance measurement and object detection. These sensors emit ultrasonic waves and measure the time it takes for the waves to bounce back after hitting an object. The information is then used to calculate the distance to the object, making ultrasonic sensors valuable in robotics, automotive parking systems, and industrial automation.

Cavitation and Cleaning

In ultrasonics, cavitation refers to the formation, oscillation, and collapse of microscopic bubbles in a liquid. This phenomenon is harnessed for ultrasonic cleaning processes. Ultrasonic cleaners use the energy generated by cavitation to remove dirt and contaminants from various surfaces, making them efficient tools in cleaning delicate items like jewelry, surgical instruments, and electronic components.

Limitations and Considerations

While ultrasonics offer numerous advantages, there are limitations and considerations to keep in mind. The effectiveness of ultrasound waves can be influenced by factors such as the medium through which they travel, temperature, and the presence of obstacles. Additionally, the potential for tissue heating in medical applications requires careful monitoring and control to ensure patient safety.

Main Differences Between Ultrasound and Ultrasonic

  • Ultrasound:
    • Refers to sound waves with frequencies higher than the upper limit of human hearing (typically above 20,000 Hz).
    • Used in medical imaging, industrial testing, and cleaning applications.
    • Can be audible or inaudible, depending on the frequency.
    • Human ears typically cannot detect ultrasound waves.
  • Ultrasonic:
    • Specifically pertains to sound waves with frequencies above the audible range, typically above 20,000 Hz.
    • Primarily used for medical imaging, industrial cleaning, pest control, and various sensing applications.
    • Commonly employed in non-destructive testing and measurement.
    • Ultrasonic waves are generally beyond the hearing range of humans.
Difference Between Ultrasound and Ultrasonic
  1. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejm199309163291201
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0099239985801801

Last Updated : 09 March, 2024

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9 thoughts on “Ultrasound vs Ultrasonic: Difference and Comparison”

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