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When Lacking MRI Helium

MRI magnets needs to be cooled and with less helium to come by, what can be done?

When you think of a scarce resource in the world you think of oil. As oil reserves become rarer, the price of oil goes up along with a need for alternate sources of energy. Natural resources have multiple applications in the world of diagnostic imaging. The scarce natural resource that diagnostic imaging is heavily reliant on is helium. Helium is like oil and as it becomes more scarce and controlled, the price rises.

So how is helium used when speaking about procedures like the MRI?  Well, helium certainly isn’t used to conduct an MRI so relax, you will not be speaking like a chipmunk, and in fact, you will be just fine. The helium is used to cool the MRI scanner on the inside. It’s important to make sure that an MRI is properly cooled otherwise the results could be pretty bad. MRI helium is a safety concern because it can cause a quench, which has some negative effects on the environment among other things.

Still, the MRI magnet needs to be cooled and with less helium to come by, what can be done? Much like alternative fuels have been developed, there has been a development in MRI cooling. Cryogenic has developed a refrigeration system that uses barely any helium. Cryogenic, a company out of London, England, has developed technology that cools superconducting MRI magnets using only about a half liter of helium as opposed to around 1,700 liters used in a conventional scanner.

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In addition to the high amount of helium, there is always the risk of a quench. With this new technology, there is only about a half liter of helium required. The idea that only a half a liter is required is incredible, numbers wise it’s 1,699.5 liters less. The use of helium in this technology is almost nonexistent. The new device works like a refrigerator that doesn’t require any re-filling and it’s completely shut.

While this system is fairly new it will be interesting to see future implications. Perhaps this system will create a new niche that completely takes helium out of the diagnostic imaging equation.

If you have any question regarding diagnostic imaging equipment such as MRI scanners please feel free to give us a call. We here at Amber Diagnostics look forward to answering any questions that you may have.

Bobby Serros




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