An MRI scanner equipped with a superconducting magnet strong enough to lift a 60-metric-ton battle tank will offer unprecedented images of the human brain when it comes on line a little more than a year from now, say its builders.
The imager’s superconducting electromagnet is designed to produce a field of 11.75 teslas, making it the world’s most powerful whole-body scanner. Most standard hospital MRIs produce 1.5 or 3 T. A few institutions, including the University of Illinois at Chicago and Maastricht University, in the Netherlands, have recently installed human scanners that can reach 9.4 T. Superconducting magnets used in the Large Hadron Collider, which last year was used in the discovery of the Higgs boson, produce a field of 8.4 T.
The development of the scanner, known as INUMAC (for Imaging of Neuro disease Using high-field MR And Contrastophores), has been in progress since 2006 and is expected to cost €200 million, or about US $270 million. The project reached a key milestone this summer with delivery of more than 200 kilometers of superconducting cable, which is now being wound into coils that will produce the scanner’s magnetic field.
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