GE Healthcare has introduced its revolutionary, helium-saving technology for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) systems, designed to use just one percent of liquid helium (He) compared to conventional MRI magnets.

GE Healthcare’s magnet technology Freelium is designed to use 20 litres of liquid He instead of 2,000 litres. In addition, a Freelium magnet does not need to be refilled throughout its lifetime, potentially making MRI operations more accessible and less expensive to operate.

He is a critical component in MRI systems and has gone through two shortage crises in recent years, impacting hospitals and patients around the globe.

The MRI process uses superconducting magnets cooled to -452°C to take high definition pictures of people’s vital organs in the medical sector, with He used to cool these magnets.

“Our vision is to leverage this low-helium technology to increase worldwide accessibility of MRI”

Stuart Feltham, Magnet Engineering Leader of GE Healthcare MR

Stuart Feltham, Magnet Engineering Leader of GE Healthcare MR, explained the impact that this could have on the medical sector, “The fact that MRIs require so much liquid He adds cost, complication and makes the system difficult to install; Freelium technology is designed to aggressively address these challenges.”

“There is still more than 70% of the world’s population with no access to MRI. Our vision is to leverage this low-He technology to increase worldwide accessibility of MRI so that more people can benefit from its diagnostic capabilities,” he added. 

GE Healthcare stressed that its Freelium technology is in a development stage that represents ongoing research and development efforts. The company also stressed that the technology has not yet been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration or any other global regulator for commercial availability.