SU scientist receives patent that could revolutionize medical magnetic resonance imaging

A leader in semiconductor physics for some 20 years, Arnold Honig, professor of physics in Syracuse University's College of Arts and Sciences, has devoted his career to discovering how minute particles of matter behave in temperatures that are as close to absolute zero as technology allows. Honig's most recent work on highly polarized nuclear spin systems, including the development of a method that has received a U.S. patent, may help revolutionize the field of medical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

MRI is a non-invasive diagnostic tool that creates computerized images of internal body tissues. While the system can create high-quality images of the more dense body tissues, it does not work well on organs such as the lungs, which contain more gas than tissue. However, researchers discovered that high-quality lung images could be obtained by having patients inhale a small amount of a highly polarized gaseous contrast agent. One such agent is a rare gas called Xenon 129. The current optical method for polarizing Xenon 129 is expensive and does not yield large enough quantities to be useful on a wide scale.

The possibility of finding a better way to polarize the gas presented an intriguing physics challenge for Honig, who created the first spin-polarized hydrogen-deuteride (HD) targets that are critical in a large nuclear physics experiment under way at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island. Researchers at the new Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, Va., and at major laboratories in France and Japan are duplicating Honig's technique to create targets for other experiments in nuclear physics.

Honig is a pioneer in the spin-polarization field, having published his first paper on HD frozen spin systems some 30 years ago, before the technology to conduct the experiments was fully available. He began experimenting with highly polarized HD targets about six years ago; four years ago, he started looking at

Contact: John Harvith
Syracuse University

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