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Magnetic field measurements of the human heart at room temperature
Date:12/11/2009

This release is available in German.

The "magnetically best shielded room on earth" has the size of an apartment block and is located on the site of the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB), Institute Berlin. Magnetic fields such as that of the earth are kept out here as effective as nowhere else. Such ideal conditions allow to measure the tiny magnetic fields of, e.g., the human heart. This was the motivation for the American National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to ask PTB to jointly test a newly developed optical magnetic field sensor. It is based on a physical principle very different from SQUIDs, which are usually applied for biomagnetic field measurements. The optical sensor does not need advanced cooling and has the size of a lump of sugar. A high-quality measurement of the human heart signal was demonstrated using this optical sensor. The sensor's suitability was thus proven for biomagnetic measurements in the picotesla range. In future magnetocardiographic measurement devices to be used as a supplement or an alternative to the ECG could become simpler and less expensive.

Up until now one had to cool as much as one could for biomagnetic measurements! This was necessary as SQUIDs, superconducting quantum interference devices, work optimally at -269 degrees Celsius and can only then fulfil their purpose of measuring tiny magnetic fields. SQUIDs are the best suited sensors to record the magnetic fields arising during the electrical activity of the human heart. A magnetocardiogram (MCG) can be compiled supplementing a conventional electrocardiogram (ECG). (The same applies to the magnetoencephalogram, MEG, which is a recording of the magnetic field of the brain.) Yet to use SQUIDs requires well-shielded rooms and complicated cooling systems. The latter might become obsolete in the future if the optical magnetom
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Contact: Dr. Tilman Sander-Thoemmes
tilmann.sander-thoemmes@ptb.de
49-303-481-7436
Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB)
Source:Eurekalert  

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