Researchers have developed a low-cost, “intelligent” metamaterial that could revolutionize magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), making the entire MRI process faster, safer, and more accessible to patients around the world.

An array of metallic helical sensors boosts low-energy emissions from the body of patients undergoing an MRI. (Credit: Zhang et al.)

When placed beside the body part that is the target of a scan, the new magnetic metamaterial boosts the energy emitted by the patient’s body, increasing SNR and improving MRI imaging. The metamaterial is made of simple copper wiring and plastic.

The “intelligent” metamaterial selectively boosts the low-energy emissions from the patient’s body and literally turns itself off during the millisecond bursts of high-energy transmission from the machine. It amplifies SNR by tenfold, which greatly enhances image quality and reduces scan time, opening up a new way to obtain crisper MRI images at very low cost.

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