Summary: A Danish researcher has developed a prototype MRI sensor that uses laser light and gas to detect magnetic field errors, potentially enabling faster, higher-quality scans and the implementation of advanced techniques like spiral sequences.

Key Takeaways:

  • The new sensor leverages laser light and gas, overcoming limitations of traditional electrical sensors, to improve MRI accuracy.
  • The sensor could enable advanced scanning methods and more efficient MRI scans, potentially enhancing diagnostic capabilities in various medical fields.

A researcher from the University of Copenhagen has created a prototype sensor capable of detecting errors in MRI scans using laser light and gas. The capabilities of the new sensor go beyond what is currently possible for current electrical sensors and may pave the way for MRI scans that are better, cheaper, and faster.

Traditional MRI Challenges

The strong magnetic fields inside a traditional MRI scanner have fluctuations that create errors and disturbances in scans. As a result, MRI machines must be calibrated regularly to reduce errors.

The Potential of Spiral Sequences

There are also certain scanning methods, known as spiral sequences, that could reduce scanning time but are currently impossible for MRI machines due to the highly unstable magnetic field. Spiral sequences could be used when diagnosing blood clots, sclerosis, and tumors and would also be an attractive tool in MRI research, where they could provide new insight into brain diseases.

MRI Sensor Technology Solution

In theory, the problem can be solved with a sensor that reads and maps changes in the magnetic field. In practice, this has proved difficult with current technology, as otherwise suitable sensors interfere with the magnetic field because they are electric and connected to metal cables.

To combat the problem, a researcher from the Niels Bohr Institute and The Danish Research Centre for Magnetic Resonance (DRCMR) developed a sensor that uses laser light in fiber cables and a small glass container filled with gas.

Advancing MRI

“First we demonstrated that it was theoretically possible, and now we have proven that it can be done in practice,” said Hans Stærkind, the main architect of the new sensor technology. “It needs to be developed more and fine-tuned, but has the potential to make MRI scans cheaper, better and faster – although not necessarily all three at once.”

The prototype is currently housed at The Danish Research Centre for Magnetic Resonance (DRCMR) at Hvidovre Hospital in Copenhagen, where the idea was conceived. The prototype will be developed further to improve the accuracy of its measurements.

“An MRI scanner can already produce incredible images if one takes their time,” said Stærkind. “But with the help of my sensor, it is imaginable to use the same amount of time to produce even better imagery or spend less time and still get the same quality as today.”

(Photo courtesy of the University of Copenhagen.)