Ultrasound is sound with a frequency greater than the upper limit of human hearing, approximately 20 kilohertz. Some animals, such as dogs, dolphins, and bats, have an upper limit that is greater than that of the human ear and thus can hear ultrasound.
Ultrasound has industrial and medical applications. Medical ultrasonography can visualise muscle and soft tissue, making them useful for scanning the organs, and obstetric ultrasonography is commonly used during pregnancy. Typical diagnostic ultrasound scanners operate in the frequency range of 2 to 13 megahertz. More powerful ultrasound sources may be used to generate local heating in biological tissue, with applications in physical therapy and cancer treatment. Focused ultrasound sources may be used to break up kidney stones.
Ultrasonic cleaners, sometimes called supersonic cleaners, are used at frequencies from 20-40 kHz for jewellery, lenses and other optical parts, watches, dental instruments , surgical instruments and industrial parts. The main mechanism for cleaning action in an ultrasonic cleaner is actually the energy released from the collapse of millions of microscopic cavitation events occurring in the liquid of the cleaner. Home cleaners are available and costs range from approximately US $100.
Ultrasound in applied in specific configurations can produce exotic phenomena such as sonoluminescence. These phenomena are being investigated partly because of the possibility of bubble fusion.
Ultrasound generator/speaker systems are sold with claims that they frighten away rodents and insects, but there is no scientific evidence that the devices work; controlled tests have shown that rodents quickly learn that the speakers are harmless.