Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a complicated imaging modality and improving it requires a deep understanding of the physics involved. Scientists at Boston University have been working on improving MRI’s signal-to-noise ratio using special metamaterials that are made of arrays of helical resonators.
Each of these resonators is just a piece of plastic with copper wound around it, all made to rigid specifications. These act like optical lenses, interacting with the magnetic field to optimize the image quality.
Not only is the image clearer, it is produced faster than before, something that was studied after a trip to the supermarket. The researchers scanned a chicken leg, tomatoes, and grapes using an MRI machine with and without the help of the new metamaterial. They showed that their prototype device resulted in considerably enhanced image quality when imaging the anatomy of the leg and fruit.
The researchers believe that their technology may one day make high power MRIs unnecessary in many cases, avoiding large and dangerous magnets, reducing costs, and expanding access to high quality imaging around the world in the process.