POLARIS benefits from excellent laboratories and equipment to conduct its research.



Polariser sketch

Our unit has 5 polarisers, 3 static and 2 mobile.

We have 1 static 129Xe polariser, 2 portable 129Xe polarisers and 2 static 3He polarisers.

The gases we typically use, Helium (3He) and Xenon (129Xe) are nearly 4 orders of magnitude lower than the density of tissues that we image on the scanners. To overcome this, we polarise the gas so that the MRI signal strength is enhanced and becomes 5 orders of magnitude.

A polariser consists of an optical cell that contains rubidium (Rb) metal and gas to be polarised.

For 3He, the cell is heated to create a diluted vapour of Rb, which is irradiated by a laser so that its valence electrons become polarised. The Rb is removed once this process is complete. This is done by cooling meaning the polarised gas can be dispenses into a bag.

The process for polarising 129Xe is very similar but it is polarised as it flows continuously through the optical cell.

The 129Xe-Rb spin exchange interaction is a lot quicker. Xenon is combined in the form of a 1% diluted mixture with nitrogen and helium buffer gas into the optical cell.

The polarising process only takes a few seconds and once it flows out of the optical cell is cryogenically extracted from the other flowing gases using a cold finger in a liquid nitrogen bath.

RF Lab

Radio Frequency Instrumentation Laboratory

Our RF lab is dedicated to create coil hardware as well as novel transmitter and receiver array designs for 1he, 3He and 129Xe lung, abdominal and brain MRI.

We also provide custom RF engineering for research collaborators through contract work.

MRI scanners

New MRI scanner

We have 3 MRI scanners within our unit, 2 1.5 Teslas (GE) and 1 3 Tesla (Philips) that are used for hyperpolarised gas and cardiac imaging.

At the main unit, based at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, we have a 1.5T scanner and a 3T scanner. The other 1.5T is based at the Northern General Hospital.

We have scanned many patients and healthy volunteers for studies relating to IPF (Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis), CF (Cystic Fibrosis), asthma, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and pulmonary hypertension.

Since 2015, we have scanned over 100 patients that have been referred by clinicians for clinical purposes using hyperpolarised gas.


The PFT lab was installed in 2016, funded by an MRC grant. This lab has allowed us to perform several breathing tests on patients from a wide variety of studies.

Centres of excellence

The University's cross-faculty research centres harness our interdisciplinary expertise to solve the world's most pressing challenges.