BERKELEY, CA -- When we hear the term "MRI," most of us probably think of a special treatment room in a hospital with a huge doughnut-shaped machine that costs a lot of money and makes a lot of noise. Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) are looking to change that perception with the successful testing of a laser-based MRI technique that would make the technology compact and portable, relatively cheap, and quiet.
"We have developed a novel approach for the detection of MRI based on optical atomic magnetometry," said chemist Alexander Pines, one of the world's leading authorities on NMR/MRI technology. Pines holds a joint appointment as a chemist with Berkeley Lab's Materials Sciences Division and with UC Berkeley, where he is the Glenn T. Seaborg Professor of Chemistry. "Our technique provides a viable alternative for MRI detection with substantially enhanced sensitivity and time resolution for various situations where traditional MRI is not optimal."
Pines led the development of this new MRI technique along with Dmitry Budker, who holds a joint appointment with Berkeley Lab's Nuclear Science Division and UC Berkeley's Physics Department. Shoujun Xu, a member of Pines' research group, conducted the MRI measurements. The three were co-authors of a paper about this technique which appeared in the Aug 22 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS). Other authors of the PNAS paper were Valeriy Yashchuk, Marcus Donaldson and Simon Rochester.
MRI, which stands for magnetic resonance imaging, and its sister technology, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, are based on a property of atomic nuclei with an unpaired proton or neutron called "spin." Such nuclei spin on an axis like miniature tops, giving rise to a magnetic moment, which means the nuclei act as if they were bar magnets with a north and south pole. When exposed to an external
Contact: Lynn Yarris
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory