Magnetic resonance imaging can be uncomfortable to patients because of the narrow size of the tube that they are placed into. For patients with claustrophobia, this can be traumatic. The solution may be an MRI helmet.
Researchers at the University Clinic of Freiburg, the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics (Fraunhofer IAF) and the Department of Microsystems Engineering IMTEK at the University of Freiburg are developing a new generation of MRI devices, according to a Fraunhofer article. The technique might one day allow patients to wear an MRI helmet with coils adapted to their anatomy instead of being moved into a narrow MRI tube.
In conventional MRI, amplifiers need to be placed further away than the receivers because they generate heat that can be damaging to the MRI machine and its superconducting magnets. For good image quality, the coils need to be close to the patient. The distance between the coils and the amplifiers reduce signal quality.
The researcher team aims to place receiving coils closer to the patient and amplifiers closer to the coils than in conventional MRI. This would reduce measuring time and improve image quality.
With the use of metamorphous high-electron mobility transistor technology from IAF, the scientists have already developed low-noise amplifier chips made of gallium arsenide with energy consumption of only 7.5 mW. Conventional amplifiers have a power consumption of about 2 W. The low power consumption means that a larger number of coils with integrated pre-amplifiers can be positioned on top of patients without causing cooling problems. This could allow for new and compact design options for MRI machines.
The research work is part of a project funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research BMBF titled “Imaging neurodisease using high field MR and contrastophores.”Camilla Andersson