New metamaterial improves MRI performance

Researchers from Boston University have developed a new magnetic metamaterial that could help improve the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of MRI scanners, sharing their findings in Communications Physics.

The key to the team’s research was tiny structures that could end up making a massive impact.  

“While different schemes have been reported to manipulate and enhance magnetic fields, from static to radio frequencies, we propose an array of metallic helical unit cells with collective resonant modes to interact with the magnetic field in MRI, thereby improving SNR,” the authors wrote.  

The team thinks this new metamaterial will be able to make a significant impact on the performance of MRI scanners, reduce scan times and help imaging providers save money. According to a news release from Boston University, it could even be used to improve ultra-low field MRI equipment.

“This [magnetic metamaterial] creates a clearer image that may be produced at more than double the speed,” co-author Stephan William Anderson, MD, a professor of radiology and vice chairman of research in Boston Medical Center's radiology department, said in the news release.

Xin Zhang, PhD, another co-author of the research, noted in the same release that some observers have been caught off guard by the metamaterial’s construction.

“A lot of people are surprised by its simplicity,” Zhang said. “It's not some magic material. The 'magical' part is the design and the idea.”

The researchers tested their metamaterial by scanning chicken legs, tomatoes and grapes using a 1.5T MRI scanner. The result? A 4.2-fold increase in the scanner’s SNR.

“If you are able to deliver something that can increase SNR by a significant margin, we can start to think about possibilities that didn't exist before,” Anderson said in the news release. “Being able to simplify this advanced technology is very appealing.”