Hospitals and imaging centers face spatial challenges with large and heavy magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines; however, researchers from the Superconductivity Research Center at the Korea Electrotechnology Research Institute (KERI) are working to reduce the cumbersome size and weight of MRI equipment with smart insulation. 

MRI is so heavy because the machine’s superconducting electromagnets need to be wrapped in massive quantities of copper in order to prevent the superconducting wire from heating up and burning. The amount of copper is what makes the equipment so bulky and heavy, and it’s also an obstacle for superconducting wires. According to EurekaAlert, researchers have yet to fully understand this burning phenomenon, but the phenomenon occurs when the wire “escapes the superconducting state beyond a certain amount of electricity.”

KERI researchers, Dr. Seog-Whan Kim and Dr. Young-Sik Jo have created a “smart insulation” resolution that eliminates the risk of the superconducting wire overheating and reducing the excessive copper by half. The insulation is used in tandem with MRI, and in the event that the superconducting wire begins heating, it acts as a conductor to facilitate the distribution of electricity across nearby wires.

KERI has applied for patents in five countries, including Korea, and they hope to be introducing the technology to hospitals and imaging centers in the near future.