Magnet for breakthroughs: UWS research facility expands

Biomedical Magnetic Resonance Facility opening 

The University of Western Sydney will celebrate the recently expanded Biomedical Magnetic Resonance Facility by hosting events this month to highlight the power of the technology for research, healthcare and industrial applications.

An ultra high resolution Bruker 600 MHz wide bore spectrometer and Perkin Elmer Quantum GX micro Computed Tomography (CT) have been installed at the multimillion dollar facility on the UWS Campbelltown campus to provide even greater detailed images of living tissue and other materials.

UWS Vice-Chancellor Professor Barney Glover says the expanded NMR facility is a shining example of the kinds of research happening across our universities in collaboration with business and industry to drive Australian innovation.

"Research infrastructure funding is too important to be a political football," says Professor Glover.

"While we welcome the Federal Government's recent guarantee of another 12-months of funding for the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy, we need to ensure long-term funding for vital research infrastructure and a continued investment in research across universities," he says.

Panorama of Biomedical Magnetic Resonance Facility 

The principles of CT and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines in the UWS lab are the same as the ones used in hospitals but key differences lie in the resolution and the amount of information that the University's machines can produce.

These finely tuned instruments and specialised techniques can reveal, for example, localised changes in the chemical composition of living tissue, the turbulence of water flowing in a tube, or the binding of drugs to proteins.

On 31 March the sixth biennial NMR, MRI and Diffusion Symposium at UWS will showcase theoretical developments and cutting edge applications of the technologies.

Professor Bill Price, from the UWS School of Science and Health, says the symposium will encourage the free exchange of knowledge between researchers, clinicians and people from industry.

Invited speakers include Professor Jörg Kärger (Leipzig), Professor Peter Basser (US National Institutes of Health), Dr Kirk Feindel (University of Western Australia) and Dr Konstantin Momot (Queensland University of Technology).

The Facility will also host a public workshop on industrial and medical applications of NMR/MRI on 30 March. Everyone from high school, undergraduate and postgraduate students to those working in industry and healthcare are encouraged to attend.

"The events will highlight the potential for NMR, MRI and diffusion techniques in fields as diverse as medicine, environmental monitoring, mining and manufacturing," says Professor Price, who also heads the UWS Nanoscale Organisation and Dynamics research group.

"It's essential we help people understand the power and versatility of NMR/MRI to reveal physical changes in almost any substance or object.

"Applications in industry, research and healthcare are almost limitless," he says.

The UWS Biomedical Magnetic Resonance Facility welcomes collaborations with industry and research partners.

What is NMR/MRI?
Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) or Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines use very powerful magnets, sophisticated electronics and software to build images of just about any substance including animals, plants, minerals, chemical compounds and even water flowing through tubes.

The nuclei of many atoms, including those in human cells, behave like small bar magnets. When a patient, animal, plant or sample is placed inside the intense magnetic field of an MRI machine, some of the nuclei resonate. This resonance can be detected and is used to build a picture of the sample.

The magnetic fields used in an MRI are very strong - more than 200,000 times stronger than the Earth's magnetic field – but are completely harmless and there are no health risks for the patient, animal or plant.

The new ultra-high resolution MRI equipment at UWS provides unique high contrast images at previously inaccessible levels of resolution of less than 0.1 mm.


Photos: Sally Tsoutas

31 March 2015

Media contact: Paul Grocott, Senior Media Officer

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