Ultrasound is an oscillating sound pressure wave with a frequency greater than the upper limit of the human hearing range. Ultrasound is thus not separated from ‘normal’ (audible) sound by differences in physical properties, only by the fact that humans cannot hear it. Although this limit varies from person to person, it is approximately 20 kilohertz (20,000 hertz) in healthy, young adults. Ultrasound devices operate with frequencies from 20 kHz up to several gigahertz.
Ultrasound is used in many different fields. Ultrasonic devices are used to detect objects and measure distances. Ultrasonic imaging (sonography) is used in both veterinary medicine and human medicine. In the nondestructive testing of products and structures, ultrasound is used to detect invisible flaws. Industrially, ultrasound is used for cleaning and for mixing, and to accelerate chemical processes. Animals such as bats and porpoises use ultrasound for locating prey and obstacles.