Magnetic resonance imaging (or MRI) is one of the best ways for doctors or other medical professionals to get a good look at the inner workings of your body. While x-rays are best utilized to help discern issues in the skeletal structure (bone breaks, sprains, etc.), the MRI takes images of the internal organs and muscular system and can detect the health of the tissues, the appearance of brain tumors, strokes, dementia, or many causes of headaches. Because the MRI machine utilizes the power of magnetism, those magnets do have the capacity to become overheated. Medical chillers for MRI machines are necessary to prevent this overheating and keep the entire system from ‘quenching.’ This occurs when the temperature becomes so high that the magnet suddenly loses all of its superconductivity.
When quenching occurs, several things can also happen. When the coil temperature of the MRI machine rises above the superconductivity threshold, the coil windings suddenly develop a more finite resistance (where one did not occur previously). This heat can lead to a fairly explosive boiling off of liquid helium, which would then fill the room up to dangerous levels.
What’s so dangerous about helium, you might ask? In small amounts, very little. But in the large amounts found within the MRI machine, if they boil off and the room is improperly ventilated, helium can displace oxygen in the room. Because helium is a denser element, it will sink to the floor and push all the oxygen to the ceiling, making the room unsustainable for proper breathing. If enough helium is released, even 10 seconds’ worth of breathing in the room can lead to a loss of consciousness, which itself can lead to asphyxia and death. While these quenches usually occur during the installation of new systems or the decommissioning of older magnets, it’s still policy in most places to evacuate all patients and staff from the room immediately to keep everyone safe.
Medical chillers for MRI machines are essential in keeping the magnetic systems working in a safe and effective manner so that medical professionals can continue finding internal issues within their patients. When the possible end result is an influx of helium filling up a room and heat rendering an MRI machine inoperable (or less effective), MRI chillers aren’t just an option, they’re a necessity in keeping both patients and medical staff healthy and protected.