They accomplished a great deal more as well, says project manager Dr. Marijn Peter Oomen. According to Oomen, who is an expert in superconductivity, another outstanding feature of the demonstration unit is that the current does not fade away despite the HTS. “Resistance is so low that we only need to feed current to the magnetic field once when the machine starts up; after that we can disconnect the magnet from its power supply,” he explains. The reason is that electricity simply continues to flow in HTS magnet coils, because the electrical resistance of the HTS ceramics is extremely low —something no one thought would be possible for HTS in the past. “Losses are so low that the HTS magnet is just as powerful as the established LTS persistent-current magnets,” adds Arndt. All things considered, that’s a global first.
Thanks to this breakthrough in HTS ceramics, a range of completely new applications is now at hand. For example, the new magnet technology could be used in industry to separate different raw materials from one another for processing, which was not possible with more elaborate low-temperature superconductor systems. New MRI systems could also be employed to detect the presence of foreign particles or impurities in food, or to search for internal product damage. The technology could even be used to accelerate approval processes in the pharmaceutical industry — for example by enabling rapid verification of the effects of new osteoarthritis medications through accelerated examinations of the hands of large numbers of test subjects. This could be accomplished in a small room right next to a reception area instead of requiring a specially equipped treatment area.
Whether in industrial production, in food inspections, or in pharmaceuticals industry approval processes, the simplicity of the new technology makes it suitable for completely new applications. Even though the demonstration unit is not yet a market-ready product, it already provides a firm foundation for the use of MRI technology in new applications — in short, the unit shows what’s possible.