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A team of engineers and radiologists at Boston University created a helmet that can dramatically improve MRI scans of the brain. The device consists of a series of magnetic metamaterial resonators that significantly boost MRI performance. This results in crisper images that can be obtained at twice the speed of a normal scan. The breakthrough may allow clinicians to obtain useful images from low-field MRI scanners, potentially expanding the accessibility of brain scans to people in low-resource regions of the world.

MRI is an incredibly useful imaging technique, but it can often be difficult to achieve the image resolution required to identify the features of a specific disease or condition. Moreover, the scans are not exactly quick, often lasting nearly an hour. Upping the field power of an MRI system can increase its imaging power, but this is expensive. What if a simple device, made from plastic and copper wire, could help with all of these issues, and look like a goofy toy for kids in the process? Look no further.

This helmet has been designed by Boston University researchers to significantly enhance MRI brain scans. The helmet is an example of a metamaterial, which consists of an array of unit cells called resonators. Metamaterials are intended to influence waves, including sound waves and electromagnetic waves, by bending, absorbing, or otherwise influencing their behavior.    

These researchers have previously designed acoustic metamaterials to influence sound waves, which can make something quieter without blocking the flow of air and so could help to reduce the noise from engines or air-conditioners. This latest technology is a wearable metamaterial, which aims to influence the magnetic field of an MRI scanner to enhance MRI performance when the wearer is undergoing a brain scan.

The technology is relatively simple in terms of its components. The helmet consists of 3D-printed plastic tubes that have been wrapped in copper wire. These are placed so that they affect the magnetic field of the MRI machine within the brain in such a way as to improve the resulting images. Moreover, the time required for an MRI scan is reduced.

In the future, the Boston University researchers hope to develop the technology to the point that it can enable clinicians to obtain excellent images using low-field MRI scanners, which could increase the accessibility of such imaging around the world.

Study in Advanced Materials: Auxetics-Inspired Tunable Metamaterials for Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Via: Boston University

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