It may possibly glimpse like a bizarre bike helmet, or a piece of machines uncovered in Doc Brown’s lab in Back to the Upcoming, nevertheless this gadget designed of plastic and copper wire is a technological breakthrough with the likely to revolutionize health care imaging. Irrespective of its playful seem, the gadget is basically a metamaterial, packing in a ton of physics, engineering, and mathematical know-how.
It was created by Xin Zhang, a College or university of Engineering professor of mechanical engineering, and her crew of researchers at BU’s Photonics Middle. They are authorities in metamaterials, a style of engineered composition created from smaller device cells that could be unspectacular alone, but when grouped jointly in a specific way, get new superpowers not found in character. Metamaterials, for instance, can bend, take up, or manipulate waves — these types of as electromagnetic waves, sound waves, or radio waves. Just about every device mobile, also identified as a resonator, is generally arranged in a repeating pattern in rows and columns they can be created in unique dimensions and shapes, and placed at distinct orientations, based on which waves they are made to impact.
Metamaterials can have several novel capabilities. Zhang, who is also a professor of electrical and computer engineering, biomedical engineering, and elements science and engineering, has made an acoustic metamaterial that blocks seem devoid of stopping airflow (consider quieter jet engines and air conditioners) and a magnetic metamaterial that can enhance the high-quality of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines utilized for healthcare prognosis.
Now, Zhang and her crew have taken their get the job done a action more with the wearable metamaterial. The dome-shaped device, which suits in excess of a person’s head and can be worn throughout a mind scan, boosts MRI efficiency, generating crisper photos that can be captured at 2 times the typical speed.
The helmet is fashioned from a sequence of magnetic metamaterial resonators, which are produced from 3D-printed plastic tubes wrapped in copper wiring, grouped on an array, and exactly organized to channel the magnetic field of the MRI machine. Positioning the magnetic metamaterial — in helmet variety or as the originally built flat array — close to the portion of the physique to be scanned, says Zhang, could make MRIs considerably less highly-priced and extra time efficient for doctors, radiologists, and people — all even though increasing graphic quality.
Sooner or later, the magnetic metamaterial has the probable to be used in conjunction with cheaper very low-field MRI devices to make the know-how a lot more widely accessible, specially in the building globe.
Materials offered by Boston College. Initial created by Jessica Colarossi. Observe: Content material may perhaps be edited for style and duration.