Cambridge University spin-out, Magnifye, has received £170,000 in funding from the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) to develop its superconducting magnets for use in particle accelerators and MRI machines.
The funding follows a £39,000 grant received by the company last year to prove the technology would work in large-scale applications. Led by Tim Coombs, a lecturer at Cambridge University, the group hopes EEDA's latest investment will help secure commercial partners to further develop the technology.
Coombs said: ‘There’s huge interest from all sorts of different people. We’ve recently been working with a large British motor manufacturer as well as an MRI manufacturer. When the first grant came along it was mostly proof-of-concept and market survey. We now want to convert the technology into a large-scale machine.'
The team will use the money to research the possibility of using a smaller and more flexible form of magnet that doesn’t require large current supplies to be constructed from individual high-field magnets.
The technique uses a heat engine to convert thermal energy into currents of millions of amps, in a similar way to magnetising a nail by stroking it over a magnet. The heat changes the permeability of the material and creates a strong magnetic wave, which is then used to magnetise a superconductor.
The group hopes the method will lead to the development of a full-scale prototype MRI scanner that uses an individually magnetised array of magnets. According to Coombs, this will produce a range of field profiles and shapes to a higher degree of accuracy than conventional methods, providing better image resolution.
As well as healthcare, Coombs is confident the resulting dipole magnet will have the potential to be used for a wider range of applications in areas such as energy, traction and levitated transport.