Miniature Low-Noise High-Quality MRI Preamplifiers

Period of Performance: 03/01/2009 - 02/28/2010


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Quality Electrodynamics, LLC
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): As a start-up high-RF-technology company with an outstanding core of technical personnel Quality Electrodynamics (QED) has the mission to be the first industrial group to design, prototype, test, and manufacture in large quantities new "miniature" preamplifiers in Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) compliance for utilization as components in the MRI medical systems industry. One of the fastest growing clinical applications in this powerful medical imaging modality is the so-called parallel imaging method where multiple receive coils are used in simultaneous signal processing to speed up imaging. The ability to reduce imaging time by a factor of 4 or more without a serious compromise of image quality is very important for patient comfort and picture fidelity. Examples are the reduction of blurring for human anatomies in motion, such as the heart and lung, and the time required for certain scanning procedures where the patients must hold their breath. To take full advantage of highly parallel imaging and the concomitant enhancement of disease diagnostics such as detection of cancer, large numbers of RF coils are required. As many as 128 receiver-channel coils have been combined in some systems presently under study, and next-generation high-end commercial MRI systems are expected to be equipped with at least 16 channels with which new RF coil products need to interface. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges in building these complex RF coils and their internal circuits is the size of the preamplifiers to be integrated in each coil. There is no existing commercial preamplifier small enough for the large numbers of channels envisioned. Preamplifiers in MRI are different from other technical areas because of the need for low-input impedance (5 Ohms or less), nonmagnetic materials (to reduce image distortion), extremely low-noise figures, and robustness in the 64-300 MHz frequency range. In QED's mission to develop what is needed for the many-channel RF system, their core competency is perfectly positioned 1) to design and optimize the circuit, printed circuit board, and selection of sourcing components and external contract manufacturing firms, 2) to test a complete list of quality and safety factors including noise figure, stability, low-input impedance and linearity tests using network analyzers, spectrum analyzers and specialized test setups. The extensive criteria for this evaluation have been delineated in our Phase I work, and the Phase II project target is to perform applied R&D to position the company in Phase III as a high-quality, high volume manufacturer. The long-term goal is to become a platinum-standard main supplier of new high-quality low- noise miniature preamplifiers for the MRI hardware industry. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: We will prepare a manufacturing model for uniquely small preamplifiers that are a critical component for cutting edge magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology. Preamplifiers are needed to increase the signal from the detection coils surrounding the patient in constructing diagnostics images. The current trend in MRI is to increase the number of these detection coils to reduce scanning time and increase image clarity. Faster scanning times result in more patients per day per machine, which directly results in MRI accessibility to a larger number of patients, faster/more accurate diagnostics, and a more comfortable imaging experience for patients-thus lowering costs and increasing the overall quality of health care. As the number of detection coils is increased, this also enables more widespread use of MRI in surgery, radiotherapy, cardiac imaging, and certain mammography procedures. But there is a problem: with more detector coils comes the need for smaller preamplifiers that meet today's MRI system demands. This proposal by QED has laid out a robust plan to uniquely meet the challenge of building such new devices.