Linde Gases has announced it has successfully provided the cool-down service and first customised helium recovery unit, for the world’s largest full body Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) magnet.

The cool-down services and helium recovery unit was provided for the Julich Research Centre in Germany.

The five-day cool-down, which took place in September, was part of a project named 9komma4 after the giant magnet’s field intensity of 9.4 Tesla.

The magnet will allow researchers to produce images of the human body of an unparalleled quality, and will be used to develop a better understanding of major neurodegenerative diseases - such as Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.

The 9 komma4 project was a collaboration between Siemens in Germany and Magnex Scientific in the UK. Siemens acted as system integrator for the project, which it designed and installed. The magnet, approximately 4m in length and weighing 57 metric tons, was developed and manufactured by Magnex Scientific.

Linde provided the 22,000 litres of liquid helium – almost ten times the amount used to cool conventional sized MRI magnets. Additionally, Linde provided a unique mobile helium recovery system, and specialised equipment to perform the cool-down – the first of its kind in the field.

Recycling helium
A key aspect of the research project was the inclusion of Linde’s first helium recovery unit, which captures the increasingly tightly supplied helium used to cool the magnet, as the gas boils off.

The captured helium retains its quality as an industrial gas and can therefore be compressed into cylinders and re-marketed for industrial usage. This highly efficient re-capturing of the helium means a reduction in net consumption of the gas by Jülich, resulting in significant cost savings.

While helium recovery has been undertaken previously at magnet production facilities, such as those run by Magnex and Siemens, Linde is the first supplier to offer mobile helium recovery in the field.

“This is a milestone in Linde’s efforts to improve on-site magnet cooling and it will change the economic efficiency of all future projects of this kind,” said Matthias Bohn, Market Development Manager and applications expert of the Global Helium team at Linde Gases Division.