The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 project will target clinical Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanners where there is limited MRI access to a larger patient population. Enhanced spatial resolution and reduced scan time are in urgent demand for investigating a comprehensive range of biological systems from single cells to humans. Long scan times reduce the efficiency of radiology department processes and increase the overall cost to clinics and patients. In the research community, high-resolution MRI is a powerful tool for understanding metabolic activity. This project will pioneer an entirely different solution to the fundamental problem of long scan times by introducing special materials into the clinical MRI scanners most commonly used to address the challenge of signal strength versus patient safety, which ultimately limits the throughput for research studies and clinical tests. The proposed materials developed under this SBIR program will have an immediate impact on animal and human health studies where neuroscientists are using MRI techniques to monitor brain activity and cognition.
The proposed SBIR Phase 1 project will advance the development of a new approach to MRI, an indispensable clinical imaging modality for radiology and one of the most powerful research instruments for life science. However, it has an inherently low signal-to-noise ratio, limiting both imaging resolution and scan speed. Development efforts will focus on incorporation of high permittivity dielectric materials into MRI scanners to increase the signal-to-noise ratio by over 40%, thereby cutting the scan time by half. The dielectric materials would be placed near the patient to increase the MRI signal through stronger electromagnetic coupling. Materials with dielectric constant values between 4,000 and 6,000 will be synthesized and incorporated into clinical 1.5 Tesla MRI scanners. Oxide materials with the optimized dielectric properties will be synthesized and characterized before fabricating the final device. The project will pursue an integrated systems approach including electromagnetic simulation, ceramic processing and testing. The magnetic field strengths will be optimized by simulating a range of dielectric materials in the MRI scanner and ultimately tested in clinical scanners with a phantom.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.