It may well seem like a strange bicycle helmet, or a piece of products observed in Doc Brown’s lab in Back again to the Long run, nevertheless this gadget built of plastic and copper wire is a technological breakthrough with the probable to revolutionize health-related imaging. Regardless of its playful glimpse, the product is essentially a metamaterial, packing in a ton of physics, engineering, and mathematical know-how.

It was created by Xin Zhang, a College of Engineering professor of mechanical engineering, and her staff of scientists at BU’s Photonics Heart. They’re authorities in metamaterials, a form of engineered construction developed from compact unit cells that might be unspectacular alone, but when grouped alongside one another in a specific way, get new superpowers not uncovered in mother nature. Metamaterials, for occasion, can bend, take up, or manipulate waves — this sort of as electromagnetic waves, audio waves, or radio waves. Each and every unit cell, also referred to as a resonator, is commonly arranged in a repeating pattern in rows and columns they can be intended in various dimensions and styles, and put at different orientations, based on which waves they are created to impact.

Metamaterials can have quite a few novel functions. Zhang, who is also a professor of electrical and laptop engineering, biomedical engineering, and materials science and engineering, has developed an acoustic metamaterial that blocks seem without the need of stopping airflow (envision quieter jet engines and air conditioners) and a magnetic metamaterial that can increase the quality of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines applied for medical diagnosis.

Now, Zhang and her group have taken their work a move further more with the wearable metamaterial. The dome-formed unit, which fits around a person’s head and can be worn during a brain scan, boosts MRI performance, making crisper photographs that can be captured at twice the usual velocity.

The helmet is fashioned from a series of magnetic metamaterial resonators, which are built from 3D-printed plastic tubes wrapped in copper wiring, grouped on an array, and exactly organized to channel the magnetic field of the MRI machine. Positioning the magnetic metamaterial — in helmet type or as the initially developed flat array — in the vicinity of the aspect of the overall body to be scanned, states Zhang, could make MRIs less expensive and extra time effective for medical professionals, radiologists, and sufferers — all though strengthening image good quality.

At some point, the magnetic metamaterial has the likely to be made use of in conjunction with more affordable reduced-field MRI machines to make the engineering much more commonly out there, notably in the developing planet.

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Components offered by Boston University. Initial prepared by Jessica Colarossi. Take note: Content might be edited for design and style and size.