Hardcore Recycling: Using Old MRI Magnets in a Physics Lab

By Attila Nagy on at

When magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners reach the end of their lifetime, hospitals have to deal with a large piece of electronic waste, stuffed with potentially dangerous parts. Unless a physics lab can make use of them.

In the photo above you can see an old MRI magnet, one of the most valuable parts of a discarded medical device. But this one won’t end up in a landfill, but find a new home in instruments used in high-energy and nuclear physics experiments. Argonne National Laboratory explains what will happen:

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory recently acquired two decommissioned magnets from (MRI) scanners from hospitals in Minnesota and California. The two new magnets have a strength of 4 Tesla, not as strong as the newest generation of MRI magnets but ideal for benchmarking experiments that test instruments for the g minus 2 (“g-2”) muon experiment currently being assembled at the DOE’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. The Muon g-2 experiment will use Fermilab’s powerful accelerators to explore the interactions of muons, which are short-lived particles, with a strong magnetic field in “empty” space.

[Mark Lopez/Argonne National Laboratory]