After a month-long journey from England, the world's largest imaging magnet has been unloaded in its new home at the University of Minnesota.
The 10.5 Tesla whole-body human magnet will help researchers create much more detailed maps of the human brain and body, showing brain structures in a half-millimeter resolution or less, said Kamil Ugurbil, director of the university's Center for Magnetic Resonance Research
Researchers, he added, want that level of detail so they can better understand how neurons organize and compute. "There are people who believe that we actually have to have information about every single neuron in order to really understand how the brain works," he said.
The magnet, funded in part by an $8 million federal grant, uses 720 miles of coiled wire to generate its powerful magnetic field and 40,000 liters of liquid helium to cool it. It weighs 110 tons and was transported to the university from Duluth harbor on a 64-wheel trailer.
It should be installed and ready for research by next July. It will be tested on animals for at least a year to make sure it is safe to use on humans.
The university probably would have been able to get the device a year earlier, but a worldwide helium shortage delayed its completion, Ugurbil said.