Feeds

Key Star Trek tri-corder boffinry breakthrough

Casanova magnet could also mean quantoputers

Build a business case: developing custom apps

A breakthrough in small, high-powered magnets could lead to handheld magnetic resonance scanners with similar capabilities to those of today's room-sized medical and scientific instruments.

According to a report in MIT Technology Review, Doctor Federico Casanova and colleagues at the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule (RWTH) in Aachen have built a 500-gramme magnet about the size of a D-cell battery which can generate a 0.7 Tesla field. This is still substantially less than the multi-Tesla fields required for MRI scans, but Casanova thinks that his design could be enhanced up to 2 Tesla in future.

This could mean that a lot of procedures which nowadays involve sending samples off to labs or patients to hospitals could instead be done in the field using devices no bigger than a Star Trek Tricorder.

Doctors or paramedics could use the new portable magno-scanners to check blood or other samples on the spot. Small, affordable instruments could check drugs and vaccines for quality as they were made. Archaeologists and other field researchers would be able to analyse finds immediately, rather than waiting until their return - perhaps as a result being able to direct their efforts much more efficiently.

Small nuclear magnetic resonance components might also be a boon to the brain-hurting field of quantum computing, in which boffins seek to make a computer running on qubits which might have any value rather than regular dull bits which are 1 or 0. One method under consideration here is the use of the spin state of a molecule as a qubit, which requires the use of very strong magnets.

IBM boffins have built a small 7-qubit magno-quantum computer in the past, and if such research leads on to bigger things Casanova-style teeny ultramagnets would potentially reduce the size and cost of tomorrow's quantum computers substantially.

There would also, perhaps, be applications in other areas such as the "cloaking" of warships' magnetic signature so as to make them safer from mines, and possibly also in plasma rockets able to carry astronauts to Mars in just months. Not to mention the possibility of building a brainscanning hat (able to warn of an imminent mistake made by the wearer) which would actually be portable, unlike the current model which weighs several tons.

Then, it should also be noted that efforts are underway in the US to deploy magnetic-resonance scanners in airports so as to allow people once again to take copious amounts of liquid aboard aeroplanes.

Good stuff all round then: well done those boffins. The Tech Review piece is here. ®

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
Asteroid's SHOCK DINO MURDER SPREE just bad luck - boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.