Could newly developed low field magnets cut MRI costs in half?

The cost of MRI research and technology production may soon significantly decrease due to newly developed magnetic materials from the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) MISiS Engineering Center for Industrial Technologies in Moscow. 

The developers, who jointly produced a prototype of MRI magnets with the Russian research and production company Magneton, estimated that the newly innovative technology will cut MRI costs in half, according to a NUST MISiS release.

"We have developed an innovative technology for the production of low cost hard-magnetic materials and permanent magnets manufactured from alloys of rare, domestic earth metals and their compounds, including the ones obtained in the processing of industrial waste magnetic production," said Evgeny Gorelikov, project leader and deputy director of the NUST MISIS Engineering Center for Industrial Technologies.

The difficulty to produce MRI machines with superconducting magnets that provide high image resolution contributes to its costly manufacturing. Small clinics and private practices may now be able to benefit from purchasing a "cheaper, low field" MRI machine. 

According to Gorelikov, the use of soft magnetic materials in the magnetic conductors of the new MRI scanner has reduced the weight of permanent magnets in the design of the magnetic system by 30 percent. Additionally, cryogenic technology typically utilized in MRI machines—using liquid nitrogen, helium fluid and water for cooling—will not be necessary for the new MRI machine to operate.

Currently, the Russian and foreign analogues of this new magnetic system cost almost twice as much to implement into the medical field, though porotype production is still underway.