There are now more than 20,000 MRI scanners worldwide, performing around 50 million examinations every year. Today, MRI is a £111mindustry that saves lives and improves diagnosis. Yet the development of MRI scanners was only made possible by technology created to advance STFC-funded research in particle physics.
UK advances in particle physics technology not only supported important experiments at CERN but pioneered early developments in superconducting magnets, which in turn led to the development of MRI scanners.
‘Rutherford Cable’ is a type of superconducting cable that was invented at STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory for particle physics applications. Now that technology is used extensively in superconducting magnets and a broad range of other applications, including inside every MRI scanner worldwide.
England carries out 2.3 million examinations every year making a huge contribution to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Unlike X-rays, MRI scans do not involve exposing the body to radiation. Therefore they are an important way of monitoring foetal defects in pregnancy as well.
MRI scanners are also used to speed up the diagnosis and recovery of patients suffering from conditions such as dementia and strokes. In addition, they identify damage suffered during heart attacks, and assess damage to cartilage, tendons and ligaments sustained in sports injuries. With so many different applications for MRI, the work on magnets at RAL has truly revolutionised healthcare.