Design of a 20 Tesla MRI Magnet for Improved Medical Imaging

Opportunites for multi-nuclear studies.
1H imaging at 50 µm.

Project Summary

The goal of this planning grant in response to the President’s initiative on brain research is to explore the design parameters and conduct experiments needed to show the feasibility of non-invasive quantitative studies enabled by an ultra-high magnetic field of 14 to 20 Tesla (200,000 gauss). With a bore size of 68 cm and a homogeneity of one part per million, the magnet will be unique in the world for performing anatomic, functional, biochemical, and biophysical mapping of the human brain. Spatial resolution and detection sensitivity provide the potential to discover new features of the conscious brain. The proposal is part of the President’s Brain Initiative that calls for research on methods beyond current techniques and capabilities. Thus, the strategy consists of development of a team of 20 scientists and engineers who are experts and leaders in magnet development, magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy instrument development, biochemistry, biophysics, physiology, animal and human experimentation, and assessment of hazards and health effects. The network of experts is organized to facilitate communications through workshops, satellite meetings during major conferences, and an active Web Site. The workshops develop preliminary experimental protocols needed to demonstrate the promise and the practice of ultra-high magnetic field human brain studies that can be realized safely by testing capabilities at 11 to 21 Tesla using methods to achieve resolutions of less than 50 micrometers and to explore more nuclei and chemical substrates than previously available for human brain studies. For example, sodium, potassium, and chloride ion gradients of the brain related to energy metabolism, oxygen utilization without injection of 17O water or 15O (PET), 13C and 31P substrates that cannot be identified at lower magnetic fields are enabled by fields of 14 – 20 T.

Specific Aims

The principal experiments follow 4 specific aims ranging from magnet technologies to chemical dynamics using magnets of 11 to 21.1 T available to this network of investigators. These magnets have small bores appropriate for animal studies only. Scaling up to human brain science requires major advances in technologies but there are no known fundamental physical or material barriers to the goals of this application.

Future Events

The planned workshops are at Berkeley, Boston, Dallas, Gainesville, Portland (OR), Duluth, Tallahassee as well as at international conferences as satellite meetings.


The results of designs and alternative strategies, feasibility experiments, and safety studies will be delivered to NIH through annual reports and a final document available to the scientific and engineering communities.