Bridging Three Orders of Magnitude: Multiple Scattered Waves Sense Fractal Microscopic Structures via Dispersion

Simon A Lambert, Sven Peter Näsholm, David Nordsletten, Christian Michler, Lauriane Juge, Jean-Michel Serfaty, Lynne Bilston, Bojan Guzina, Sverre Holm, Ralph Sinkus
Physical Review Letters 2015 August 28, 115 (9): 094301
Wave scattering provides profound insight into the structure of matter. Typically, the ability to sense microstructure is determined by the ratio of scatterer size to probing wavelength. Here, we address the question of whether macroscopic waves can report back the presence and distribution of microscopic scatterers despite several orders of magnitude difference in scale between wavelength and scatterer size. In our analysis, monosized hard scatterers 5  μm in radius are immersed in lossless gelatin phantoms to investigate the effect of multiple reflections on the propagation of shear waves with millimeter wavelength. Steady-state monochromatic waves are imaged in situ via magnetic resonance imaging, enabling quantification of the phase velocity at a voxel size big enough to contain thousands of individual scatterers, but small enough to resolve the wavelength. We show in theory, experiments, and simulations that the resulting coherent superposition of multiple reflections gives rise to power-law dispersion at the macroscopic scale if the scatterer distribution exhibits apparent fractality over an effective length scale that is comparable to the probing wavelength. Since apparent fractality is naturally present in any random medium, microstructure can thereby leave its fingerprint on the macroscopically quantifiable power-law exponent. Our results are generic to wave phenomena and carry great potential for sensing microstructure that exhibits intrinsic fractality, such as, for instance, vasculature.

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