A cryogen-free ultralow-field superconducting quantum interference device magnetic resonance imaging system
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at microtesla fields using superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) detection has previously been demonstrated, and advantages have been noted. Although the ultralow-field SQUID MRI technique would not need the heavy superconducting magnet of conventional MRI systems, liquid helium required to cool the low-temperature detector still places a significant burden on its operation. We have built a prototype cryocooler-based SQUID MRI system that does not require a cryogen. The SQUID detector and the superconducting gradiometer were cooled down to 3.7 K and 4.3 K, respectively. We describe the prototype design, characterization, a phantom image, and areas of further improvements needed to bring the imaging performance to parity with conventional MRI systems.