Portable head MRI machine

MRI for the rest of the world

This case study tells the story of the development of a compact superconducting magnet for MRI brain scanning that will increase access to this technology.


The Center for Magnetic Resonance Research at the University of Minnesota is renowned as a pioneer of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The team wanted to leverage their research into novel MRI methods to develop a new kind of system that was much more accessible than existing solutions.

To achieve this goal, they needed to solve two of the biggest problems caused by traditional MRI: the size of the magnet and the infrastructure needed to support it.

What we are delivering

Paihau—Robinson Research Institute has developed a very compact high-temperature superconductor magnet. It has been integrated into a system designed to fully make use of the magnet's compactness and improve the experience for patients. The design is so striking and practical that it won the community choice award, as well as a 'notable' award in the strategy and research category, in the prestigious Core77 international design awards.

How we did it

The University of Minnesota recognised our expertise and we started discussions about the potential for high-temperature superconductivity to meet their needs. Ben Parkinson worked through some in-principle calculations, and these helped the Minnesota team to secure a five-year National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to work in partnership with us to develop a high-field portable MRI device.

Through our end-to-end capability in high-temperature superconductors, we were able to develop a very compact brain-imaging magnet. The ergonomic design of the MRI system was also addressed. Industrial designers from the School of Design Innovation at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington were embedded in the team to ensure the end product was engineered with the user experience firmly in mind.

The magnet will be integrated with our collaborators’ technology at the University of Minnesota, and following the completion of clinical trials, the product will be commercialised.

Great minds in partnership

  • University of Minnesota
  • Robinson Research Insititute
  • Columbia University
  • Yale University
  • Harvard Medical School
  • University of São Paolo