World's largest imaging magnet arrives at U of M

World's largest magnet
Kamil Ugurbil stands in front of the world's largest whole body imaging magnet Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. The 10.5 Tesla magnet was delivered to the University of Minnesota last Friday following a month-long boat journey from England, where it was manufactured, to Duluth. Ugurbil, director of the U of M's Center for Magnetic Resonance Research, says the new device will be used to aid in brain research and human body imaging.
Lorna Benson/MPR News

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.

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