World’s smallest MRI scanned — and it did not capture the human body this time


  • Scientists successfully performed the world’s smallest MRI on iron and titanium atoms.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRIs) is usually done on human structures to detect tumors and structure of joints.
  • The technique thus developed is expected to help scientists to introduce new drugs in the biological structures and medicine.
Scientists have performed the world’s smallest MRI on single atoms using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) — the very same used to detect joint structures and tumours at hospitals.

This time around, MRI technology was used to measure magnetic fields and spins of a single atom — the smallest existing chemical element, according to the Journal Nature Physics.

In this case, the scientists from IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose and the Institute for Basic Sciences in Seoul, used iron and titanium atoms for the experiment.

The researchers came up with an MRI machine that can measure millions of spins of not just organs and body structures, but the tiniest particles as well, improving the quality of quantum research.

What happens in an MRI?

The machine uses strong magnets to create a magnetic field around the human structure, which in turn changes the spin of protons in the nucleus of the body. This aligns to the spin in the motion of magnetic fields. The energy then released by protons are detected by sensors and translated into an image.

However, in the case of atoms, the scientists used scanning tunneling microscope as the tiny MRI machine to produce an image of individual atoms. A bunch of magnetised iron atoms was fastened on the tip. Using radio frequency pulse, the energy produced by the electrons was pictured.

The technique is expected to help scientists to introduce new drugs in the biological structures and medicine.

“We can now see something that we couldn’t see before. So our imagination can go to a whole bunch of new ideas that we can test out with this technology, ” The New York Times reported citing researcher Christopher Lutz, from IBM.

See also:
You no longer need to know Chinese languages if you want to study medicine in China
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