If you’re familiar with MRI technology, you’ll know it’s altered the landscape of modern medicine. Technicians can learn more about their patients with incredible clarity while removing the risk of radiation exposure. MRI machines incorporate liquid helium to cool its superconducting magnet, which allows the equipment to generate high-resolution images of the body. If you’re looking to find out more about this miraculous fluid, read on to learn about how they function and what they cost.
How Does Liquid Helium Work?
An MRI scanner comprises coils, a magnet, and current-conducting wires. For magnetic coils to demonstrate superconductive properties, the scanner will require a coolant for electrical current to flow.
Liquid helium enables the generation of high-intensity magnetic fields. It is cold enough at 4,15 Kelvin (-269 C) to cool superconducting magnets and produce high-precision images of the human body.
What is Superconductivity?
Superconductivity refers to the physical effect that occurs in materials when exposed to extremely low temperatures. In an MRI scanner, it combats electrical resistance, resulting in fewer to no power losses.
Why is Liquid Helium Expensive?
This rare substance isn’t only a key player in MRI technology. It has a role in aviation, rocketry, weather balloons, and more, and is now less available naturally. Nowadays, supply and demand hardly align.
As a byproduct of the natural gas industry, liquid helium is only available with a select number of producers. Its growing demand is reliant on the health of the economy, which is continually fluctuating.
To compensate for costs, some establishments are implementing zero boil-off systems, which require less helium.
How Much Liquid Helium Does an MRI Machine Need?
How much liquid helium your machine consumes will vary according to its magnet and maintenance. The Philips Intera 1.5T and Achieva 1.5T, for instance, consumes 0.02 – 0.04% of helium capacity per day, whereas Toshiba counterparts will consume up to 0.1 – 0.14%.
How Much Will it Cost to Run a Scanner?
How much your scanner will consume can be calculated according to its monthly helium capacity and liquid helium cost per liter. Say your machine is capable of holding 1,800 liters of helium at 48% capacity a year. That means you consume 864 liters a year.
At roughly $23 per liter of liquid helium, you can expect to shoulder about $13,824 a year to refill your MRI scanner.
You can combat these prices by running a zero boil-off magnet instead, but expect that up-front costs will set you back tremendously.
What Should You Know About Helium Refill?
Each magnet will have a different capacity, with most holding up to 1,800 liters of liquid helium. As much as possible, you’ll want to refill your machine before it drops below 65% capacity and keep track of liquid helium market prices.
Always keep your cryocooler in good condition by scheduling regular maintenance. Remember, these mechanisms condense helium in gaseous states back to a liquid, which is imperative for running your scanner.
Liquid helium plays an essential role in MRI accuracy and efficiency. To maximize consumption, familiarize yourself with how your machine functions and how liquid helium contributes to its success.
If you are in need of Helium for your MRI, feel free to reach out to us for pricing and availability.