Setting Helium Free: Revolutionary MRI Tech from GE Healthcare

Nov 29, 2016

Freelium, a magnet technology, designed to use 20 liters of liquid helium instead of 2,000 liters


CHICAGO - November 29, 2016 - Helium, a critical component in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) systems, has gone through two potential shortage crises, impacting hospitals and patients around the globe. But the helium supply is finite and demand has been rising over the past decades. At #RSNA16, GE Healthcare (NYSE: GE) proudly unveils Freelium*, a magnet technology designed to use one percent of liquid helium compared to conventional MRI magnets. Instead of the average 2,000 liters of precious liquid helium, Freelium is designed to use only about 20 liters.

MRI uses superconducting magnets cooled to minus 452 degrees Fahrenheit in order to take hi-def pictures of a patient’s brain, vital organs, or soft tissue. The only way to keep MRI magnets currently in clinical use that cold is by using thousands of liters of liquid helium mined from below the earth’s crust.

Magnets with Freelium technology are designed to be less dependent on helium, much easier to site, and eco-friendly. Thanks to Freelium technology, hospitals would no longer need extensive venting that often necessitates siting a magnet in a separate building or newly constructed room. Additionally, a Freelium magnet would not need any refilling during transportation nor throughout its lifetime. Therefore, when the Freelium technology is integrated into a commercialized product in the future, it could make MRI more accessible and less expensive to site and operate. This is particularly important in developing regions that lack necessary infrastructure, and in major metropolitan cities where siting a magnet can cost more than the magnet itself. Patients who currently do not have access to the diagnostic benefits of MRI today may have access in the future due to this breakthrough technology.

“At GE Healthcare, we work to solve our customers’ biggest problems,” said Stuart Feltham, magnet engineering leader of GE Healthcare MR. “The fact that MRIs require so much liquid helium adds cost, complication, and makes the systems difficult to install; Freelium technology is designed to aggressively address these challenges. It’s a revolutionary advance for the industry and we look forward to integrating Freelium technology into MRI systems so clinicians and their patients can benefit from it in the near future. There is still more than 70 percent of world’s population with no access to MRI. Our vision is to leverage this low-helium technology to increase worldwide accessibility of MRI so that more people can benefit from its diagnostic capabilities.”

To learn more about this revolutionary MRI tech, tune in to GE Healthcare’s Facebook Live broadcast Tuesday, November 29 at 12:00 pm EST:

* Freelium is technology in development that represents ongoing research and development efforts. This technology is not a product and may never become part of a product. Not for sale. Not cleared or approved by the U.S. FDA or any other global regulator for commercial availability.

GE Healthcare at #RSNA16

Each year in Chicago, the conference of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) provides a

forum for showcasing the latest innovations in medical imaging. If you are attending the conference,

please visit GE Healthcare at booth number 4137 in McCormick Place south hall.

For more news from GE Healthcare at #RSNA16, please visit our digital press kit:

About GE Healthcare

GE Healthcare provides transformational medical technologies and services to meet the demand for

increased access, enhanced quality and more affordable healthcare around the world. GE (NYSE: GE)

works on things that matter - great people and technologies taking on tough challenges. From

medical imaging, software & IT, patient monitoring and diagnostics to drug discovery,

biopharmaceutical manufacturing technologies and performance improvement solutions, GE

Healthcare helps medical professionals deliver great healthcare to their patients. For more

information about GE Healthcare, visit our website at


Amanda Gintoft

GE Healthcare

+1 414-412-7062

Amanda Gintoft
GE Healthcare
+1 414 721 3303