Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a medical imaging technique used in radiology to visualize internal structures of the body in detail. Today’s advanced MRI magnets are manufactured using rare-earth materials, which have the unique property of superconductivity when very low temperatures are achieved (typically 4.2 K or -452° F). In order to achieve such incredibly low temperatures, liquid helium is often used to cool down the superconducting magnet. Once cold, SHI Cryogenics’ cryocooler systems take over. In some MRI systems, SHI cryocoolers cool shields in the MRI system designed to minimize the amount of liquid helium that is consumed. In other MRI systems, SHI cryocoolers actually eliminate the helium losses by re-condensing the valuable helium, resulting in a “zero-loss” system.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a very large, global business. Although MRI continues to grow steadily in developed countries, the real growth is introducing affordable MRI systems into developing countries, like China, India and Brazil.
Whereas MRI is a diagnostic tool, proton therapy is a treatment tool. Proton therapy is a particle therapy that uses a beam of protons to irradiate diseased tissue, most often in the treatment of cancer. Similar to MRI, many of the high-powered magnets used in proton therapy are superconducting magnets and need to be cooled to liquid helium temperatures, using advanced SHI cryocoolers. Since these systems are typically massive, many also require the use of SHI cryopumps to create the necessary high vacuum within the proton therapy system.
Proton therapy systems require significant investment, but are a growing global business. Many of the world’s most advanced hospitals and cancer treatment centers are already investing in, or considering investing in, this exciting, life-saving technology.