Pocket-sized magnetic resonance imaging

Jul 01, 2008
Pocket-sized magnetic resonance imaging
A portable magnetic resonance spectrometer (back right) allows investigations to be performed in the field. The magnet is housed in the circular base (in the foreground). © Fraunhofer IBMT

The term “MRI scan” brings to mind the gigantic, expensive machines that are installed in hospitals. But research scientists have now developed small portable MRI scanners that perform their services in the field: for instance to examine ice cores.

Magnetic resonance imaging yields deep insights – into the atomic structure of a biomolecule, for instance, or into the tissues of a patient's body. Magnetic resonance imaging is one of the most important imaging methods used in medicine. However, MRI scanning has one major disadvantage: The machines are huge and extremely expensive, and almost impossible to transport.

The Magnetic Resonance working group at the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Technology Engineering IBMT in Sankt Ingbert has made magnetic resonance imaging mobile. They collaborated with the New Zealand company Magritek to develop small portable devices. Dr. Frank Volke, head of the Magnetic Resonance working group, explains the core technology: "Instead of the large superconducting magnets that have to be cooled with liquid helium and nitrogen, extra-strong permanent magnets are installed in our devices. There is no need for cooling anymore."

To make this possible, several permanent magnets are so arranged that the magnetic field lines overlap to form a homogeneous field. In this way, the developers have succeeded in developing small, less expensive, and above all portable magnetic resonance spectrometers that can even be powered by batteries.

Physicians and researchers alike can benefit from the mobile pocketsized nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) devices: The first "Kea NMR moles" are already in use in the Antarctic, helping researchers to study the effects of environmental change by analyzing the structure of ice masses or drilled ice cores.

Nevertheless, they cannot replace clinical MRI scanners for whole human body studies. There are many more potential applications for such devices, including delivering important data – directly and online – during production processes. Industrial manufacturers of sausages, cheese or candies, for instance, can use them to analyze the fat or water content of their food products.

The spectrometers can also be employed to measure the humidity of materials, characterize the molecular structure of polymers, or determine the quality of trees for wood production. Together with Magritek, the Fraunhofer researchers provide technical instruction for users in Germany and Europe and support them with device maintenance.

Source: Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

Explore further: Engineers complete first comprehensive mesh-free numerical simulation of skeletal muscle tissue

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Research band at Karolinska tuck Dylan gems into papers

Sep 29, 2014

(Phys.org) —A 17-year old bet among scientists at the Karolinska Institute has been a wager that whoever wrote the most articles with Dylan quotes before they retired would get a free lunch. Results included ...

Modified algae enzymes enable efficient hydrogen production

Sep 25, 2014

(Phys.org) —Hydrogen as a regenerative fuel produced in gigantic water tanks full of algae, which need nothing more than sunlight to produce the promising green energy carrier: a great idea in theory, but one that fails ...

Playing tag with sugars in the cornfield

Sep 25, 2014

Sugars are usually known as energy storage units in plants and the insects that feed on them. But, sugars may also be part of a deadly game of tag between plant and insect according to scientists at the Max ...

Recommended for you

Analyzing gold and steel – rapidly and precisely

59 minutes ago

Optical emission spectrometers are widely used in the steel industry but the instruments currently employed are relatively large and bulky. A novel sensor makes it possible to significantly reduce their size ...

More efficient transformer materials

1 hour ago

Almost every electronic device contains a transformer. An important material used in their construction is electrical steel. Researchers have found a way to improve the performance of electrical steel and ...

Sensor network tracks down illegal bomb-making

1 hour ago

Terrorists can manufacture bombs with relative ease, few aids and easily accessible materials such as synthetic fertilizer. Not always do security forces succeed in preventing the attacks and tracking down ...

Miniature camera may reduce accidents

1 hour ago

Measuring only a few cubic millimeters, a new type of camera module might soon be integrated into future driver assistance systems to help car drivers facing critical situations. The little gadget can be ...

User comments : 0