NINGBO, China—A collaboration between University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC), Ningbo Gaosi Superconducting Technology Co. Ltd., Ningbo XinGaoYi Medical Equipment Co. Ltd., the First Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University School of Medicine and China Academy of Sciences University Ningbo Hwamei Hospital will soon introduce the world to new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology.
The collaboration’s research project, entitled “Development of 1.5 T cryogen-free superconducting magnets,” has recently achieved a phased breakthrough. The UNNC is expected to introduce the world’s first 1.5T rotatable dual-gesture scanner in the near future.
Helium — a rare gas, which is a byproduct of the natural gas industry — is the ideal cooling medium used to achieve the extremely low temperatures needed for MRI. However, helium has become a strategic material, and the price has increasingly grown in recent years. As a result, the development of cryogen-free superconducting magnets has been deemed more and more important.
This new superconducting magnet will replace the refrigerant liquid helium with lower-cost copper. This will mean that the new MRI system is extremely safe, as well as offering significant savings on costs when it replaces traditional MRI systems.
“We have successfully developed the first prototype 1.5T cryogen-free superconducting magnet, and [have] run it for over one year to prove its feasibility and stability,” said Dr. Chengbo Wang, who is director of the Magnetic Resonance Imaging Research Centre at UNNC.
Wang noted that his team has developed innovative applications for the new cryogen-free MRI. The team is currently working on developing a rotatable dual-gesture 1.5T MRI, which is thought to be the first clinically available whole-body rotatable MRI in the world. The machine is expected to be installed in UNNC in the near future.
“Due to the explosive property of liquid helium, conventional MRI are difficult and not safe to move or rotate,” Wang added.
That is another benefit of the cryogen-free MRI system: it will be far more portable than conventional systems. The successful development of the whole-body superconducting cryogen-free magnet indicates that there will be other breakthroughs soon, such as mobile MRI and standing MRI.
Wang and his team are also seeking to find solutions in order to install cryogen-free MRIs in small and/or enclosed spaces, which will significantly boost the improvement in mobile medical technology.