Looking something like a bike helmet, this contraption of plastic and copper wires is a technological marvel regarding medical imaging. The helmet is packed with a ton of physics, engineering and math – thanks to a novel metamaterial.

A group of metamaterial experts, including Xin Zhang, a mechanical engineering professor, and her team of scientists at Boston University’s Photonics Center, created a structure of small unit cells that when alone, are nothing spectacular. However, when grouped in the proper way, these cells do astounding things not seen in nature. The metamaterials can bend, manipulate and absorb magnetic, sound or radio waves.

These metamaterials can block sound without blocking air flow. Quiet jet engines and air conditioners could be an end result, but also improved quality of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines used for a large percentage of medical diagnoses.

Wearable technology through metamaterials

With a focus on improving the efficiency of MRIs, the metamaterial was fashioned into a helmet-like device. This is worn during the imaging process and can produce much cleaner brain scan images than with just the MRI alone, with double the speed.

This technology is going to make a huge difference in developing areas of the world where the quality of MRI machines is lacking. Low field machines will get a reliable boost to their results without a large financial investment for a new machine.

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