Researchers at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern University claim to have developed an MRI technique which allows for, roughly, a 10 nanometer spatial resolution. This could be a massive improvement over currently available technology, which is limited to the millimeter range. Associate professor Raffi Budakian, lead researcher, has a long term goal of achieving 3D imaging of sub-surface atomic structure, which could help us better understand such things as protein morphology and their folding. This significant development in MRI technology is the result of two unique components: a novel approach for spin manipulation, and a new technique for generating intense magnetic field pulses by focusing current using nanoscale metal constriction. The spin manipulation is achieved through “periodic radio-frequency magnetic field pulses to encode temporal correlations in the statistical polarization of nuclear spins in the sample,” according to the press release.
According to Budakian, the new technology is wholly compatible with current MRIs, and he expects it to be quickly adapted for a variety of research projects.