Sep 29, 2009
Science Scene - MRI takes on the Hadron Accelerator
This entry brought to you courtesy of Wired Science :o)
The world’s most powerful MRI machine used on humans packs a 45-ton magnet that generates a 9.4-Tesla magnetic field.
If you’re counting Teslas at home — which are a standard measure of magnetic force — that’s stronger than the magnets in the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider. (Of course, there are thousands of LHC magnets.)
Instead of using that power to accelerate particles, the MRI machine, located at the University of Illinois, Chicago, is used to peer into the human brain. And it’s already yielding new insights.
With the ultrapowerful MRI, the scientists can measure sodium concentration, oxygen consumption and the brain cells’ energy usage. When combined, the three “bioscales” provide a detailed picture of tissue health within the brain, possibly allowing scientists to pinpoint neurodegenerative disease long before symptoms show up.
Only four of the 9.4-Tesla machines exist. The MRI machine that your favorite local linebacker gets plunked into packs a measly three Tesla. A refrigerator magnet generates a magnetic field of about 0.05 Tesla strength.
“Without this magnet we wouldn’t have gotten this far so fast,” said Keith Thulborn, director of the UIC Center for Magnetic Resonance Research, in a press release. “It would have taken years and years to develop the insight and understanding to overcome the hurdles using the more widely available 3-T diagnostic MRI.”
Though the 9.4-Tesla magnet is strong, it’s nowhere near the record for a manmade continuous magnetic field of 45 Teslas. Even levitating a mouse takes a 17-Tesla magnetic field.