Metamaterial revolutionizes magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and medical imaging

Prototype of the cylinders that form the metamaterial. [Image: Duan et al. - 10.1038 / s42005-019-0135-7]

Metamaterial for exams

The metamaterials , which began as a mathematical curiosity and soon proved even more curious, by enabling the creation of invisibility cloaks , are already ready to improve medical examinations.

A team at Boston University in the United States created a magnetic metamaterial in the form of a small cylinder that proved capable of strongly amplifying the signals from MRI machines.

The result is a much sharper examination done in half the time of the current examinations and still allowing to use a much lower magnetic field, possibly paving the way for the production of lower cost and lower cost equipment.

Magnetic Metamaterial

The magnetic metamaterial consists of a series of units called helical resonators, structures three centimeters high created from plastic printed in 3D and copper coils.

The small devices alone do not impress. However, when placed together, the helical resonators form a flexible matrix, malleable enough to cover the patella, abdomen, head, or any part of the body that needs imaging.

When the array is placed close to the body, the resonators interact with the machine's magnetic field, increasing the signal-to-noise ratio of the MRI, "increasing the volume of the image," as the researchers say.

"The 'magic' part is the design and the idea," said researcher Guangwu Zhang. "Many people are surprised by its simplicity.

Comparison of the MRI scans of 1.5 T with and without the magnetic metamaterial. [Image: Duan et al. - 10.1038 / s42005-019-0135-7]

Next generation magnetic resonance imaging

To test the magnetic set, the team examined chicken legs, tomatoes and grapes using a 1.5 Tesla machine. The magnetic metamaterial produced a 4.2-fold increase in the signal-to-noise ratio, a radical improvement, which means that lower magnetic fields could be used to take clearer images than is currently possible.

Researchers now hope to partner with the industry so their magnetic metamaterial can be adapted to real-world clinical applications.


Boosting magnetic resonance imaging signal-to-noise ratio using magnetic metamaterials
Guangwu Duan, Xiaoguang Zhao, Stephan William Anderson, Xin Zhang
Communications Physics
Vol. 2, Article number: 35
DOI: 10.1038 / s42005-019-0135-7

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