SACLAY, FRANCE (NBC NEWS) – Researchers in France are developing a magnetic resonance imaging scanner — or MRI — using a supermagnet that would produce brain images at a much higher resolution, which could better explain neurological functions and promote earlier disease detection.
The giant magnet, which is being developed through project Iseult at the Neurospin facility near Paris, could help better diagnose conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease, the team says.
One project scientist says the magnet will allow the team to better understand the brain and how it works, and study characteristics of what is special to the human species– things like music, mathematics and language.
MRI uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images from inside the body.
The new supermagnet is 16-feet long and 16-feet wide, about the size of an average sedan.
It weighs about the same as a blue whale.
It was built by layering 170 “double pancake” superconductor coils of niobium-titanium alloy.
A total of 113 miles of wire made of the alloy were used for the magnet.
Once in place, the supermagnet will produce images ten-times clearer than those obtained with today’s most advanced MRI machine, which has a magnetic field of seven-teslas.
Classic hospital MRI machines emit one to three-teslas of magnetic field.
The machine will not be fully operational for at least another year, with the first official images to be taken in 2021.