The National MagLab site at the McKnight Brain Institute hosted five scientists from across North America in June to teach the theory and practice of radio frequency (RF) coils.
RF coils are used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to transmit and receive RF signals. The MagLab’s Advanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Spectroscopy (AMRIS) facility at UF has an entire lab devoted to RF coil manufacture and development, led by RF engineer Malathy Elumalai.
In response to a growing need for visiting scientists to be able to troubleshoot and design their own RF coils, Elumalai is sharing her expertise. Empowering scientists to make their own coils makes sense. The demand for specialized coils has outpaced the rate at which Elumalai can design them. Additionally, sometimes the coils break, causing an experiment to come to a halt.
At the workshop from June 20 to 24, participants learned the physics behind RF coils and underwent training in specialized software for designing and modeling how the coils will behave under different magnetic fields and with different samples. Participants also had the chance to build their own coil and test it in the MagLab’s 4.7 tesla imaging magnet.
How do RF coils in MRI machines work? First, the coil transmits an RF signal, which produces a magnetic field perpendicular to the one already being produced by the magnet. Then, the same RF coil (or a separate one) receives signals indicating how the nuclear spins inside the subject are relaxing. This information is then processed as an image. Without RF coils, there’d be no “I” (imaging) in MRI!
The workshop is an example of the ongoing training we offer our “users” so that they can make the most of their time with our magnets. The MagLab also offers a User Summer School and a Theory Winter School once a year.
Text and image by Elizabeth Webb.