WHO: Xin Zhang, a College of Engineering Professor of mechanical engineering, and her team at Boston University’s Photonics Center have designed a wearable magnetic material that can create better brain scans.

WHAT: A gadget made of plastic and copper wire, developed by BU engineers is a technological breakthrough with the potential to revolutionize medical imaging. The device is a metamaterial, a type of engineered structure created from small unit cells that might be unspectacular alone, but when grouped together in a precise way, can have many novel functions. The dome-shaped device, which fits over a person’s head and can be worn during a brain scan, boosts MRI performance, creating crisper images captured at twice the normal speed. The helmet is fashioned from a series of magnetic metamaterial resonators, which are made from 3D-printed plastic tubes wrapped in copper wiring, grouped on an array, and precisely arranged to channel the magnetic field of the MRI machine.

WHERE: Boston University, MA

WHY: Placing the magnetic metamaterial — in helmet form or as the originally designed flat array — near the part of the body to be scanned, could make MRIs less costly and more time-efficient for doctors, radiologists, and patients.

WHEN: Eventually, the magnetic metamaterial has the potential to be used in conjunction with cheaper low-field MRI machines to make the technology more widely available, particularly in the developing world.

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