Dr While’s work involves the development of new methods for designing parts of Magnetic Resonances Imaging (MRI). This is a reasonably new technology used in hospitals around the world to take diagnostic images of soft tissue in the human body, such as muscles and organs. The hard part in designing MRI scanners is how to create the special combination of magnetic fields needed for taking the images. Typically this is achieved by passing a large amount of electrical current through various coils of wire that are wrapped around a big cylinder that the patient lies in.
There are many drawbacks with this standard design, in that it generates extremely loud acoustic noise, has the unwanted potential to stimulate nerves, requires costly cooling mechanisms to prevent overheating and demands claustrophobic conditions for patients with little access for clinicians.
Dr While has devised an entirely new design method in which the coil windings are allowed to enter three-dimensional space, rather than just lying on the cylinder, and results of this new method display many advantages over existing coil designs.