Researchers from Boston University are using magnetic metamaterial to enhance lower strength magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines, according to a study published in Communication Physics.

With higher field scanners, MRI has a stronger signal-to-noise ratio, and images can be captured with better resolution and at faster speeds. Most facilities use machines with 1.5 or 3 Tesla, but the need for stronger imagers is growing. That’s why professors Zin Zhang, PhD, and Stephan Anderson, PhD, decided to develop their magnetic metamaterial to enhance the imaging power of low field MRI.

Their magnetic metamaterial is made up of helical resonators, which are three-centimeter tall plastic structures that are 3D-printed and thin coils of copper wire. They’re malleable and are easy to cover any body part that requires imaging. The resonators boost the machine’s signal-to-noise ratio by connecting with its magnetic field, effectively “turning up the volume of the image,” according to Dr. Anderson.

The researchers have tested the magnetic metamaterial using a 1.5 T machine on a series of unusual objects including chicken legs, tomatoes, and grapes. Their experiments demonstrated an increase in signal-to-ratio increase by 4.2 times. Their next step is to introduce the resonators into real life practice.

“A lot of people are surprised by its simplicity,” said Dr. Zhang. “It’s not some magic material. The ‘magical’ part is the design and the idea.”