Dutch health technology company Royal Philips has entered into a research partnership with US-based magnet solutions provider MagCorp to explore new magnet technologies.

The partnership will focus on exploring superconducting magnets for MRI scanners that eliminate the need for cooling to temperatures as low as -452°F (-269°C) using liquid helium.

It will evaluate the feasibility of superconducting materials that operate at higher temperatures than niobium-based superconductors, and eliminate liquid helium.

As niobium is also a rare element like helium, the research team is investigating new materials based on more abundant elements.

In addition, the team will explore ways to commercialise the materials, and the technologies to enable their use in future MRI scanners, said the Dutch firm.

Philips director and MRI magnet research and development head Josh Hilderbrand said: “Florida State University’s MagLab, part of the U.S. National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, is home to many of the world’s leading researchers on novel superconducting materials that don’t require liquid helium temperatures to operate.

“Philips has decades of MR scanner design and development experience, including most recently the launch of the BlueSeal magnet technology.

“Combining these resources with MagCorp’s research facilitation services will help leverage the latest technology to accelerate access and availability of MRI to more patients and healthcare providers.”

According to Philips, developing sustainable alternatives to helium-cooled superconducting magnets at a low cost can offer significant benefits to MR imaging.

The magnets would reduce energy consumption, and dependence on scarce natural resources, which are primarily produced as a by-product of fossil-fuel extraction.

The high-temperature superconductors, which support a complete shift towards helium independence, would also reduce the size, weight, and costs of MRI scanners.

MagCorp director Jeff Whalen said: “MagCorp is proud of this partnership, which brings together Philips’ game-changing BlueSeal magnet technology and the FSU MagLab’s unrivalled knowledge base about superconductors that can operate in a helium-free environment.

“Combining Philips’ forward-thinking approach with FSU MagLab’s scientists, who have a wealth of relevant expertise in the application of new superconductors, means Philips will be in the best position to develop innovations around this technology.”

In a separate development, Philips announced that the Lyon University Hospital in France has recently been equipped with its Spectral CT 7500 scanner.

The company installed its advanced spectral CT imaging solution in the hospital’s imaging centre, under an existing long-term strategic partnership agreement.

Philips Western Europe precision diagnosis leader David Corcos said: “The long-term strategic partnership with Lyon University Hospital, which gives them access to the latest technological innovations in medical imaging, has already resulted in numerous scientific publications on the use of spectral CT.”