MRI for Next Generation Smartphones

Mobile phone displaying the mmWave article
MRI may play key role in setting and enforcing new wireless safety standards.
In June, scientists from the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering and NYU School of Medicine published a research paper on the effects of millimeter-wave wireless devices on the human body. In the paper, Ting Wu, doctoral candidate at NYU Poly, Theodore “Ted” Rappaport, director of NYU WIRELESS, and Christopher Collins, professor and researcher at CAI2R, propose new standards and methods for evaluation of millimeter-wave device safety. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) honored the work as “best paper” at its International Conference on Communications in London last week.
Millimeter-wave (mmWave) wireless technology may support high-bandwidth data transfers at speeds many times greater than those reached by today’s cell phones. While the technology brings promise of even faster mobile connections, it requires some new thinking about how to evaluate risk to consumers—millimeter waves are much shorter than any used today in cellular devices.
The authors advocate that the current regulatory standard metric of safety in the millimeter wave regime —power density—be supplanted by a more appropriate one—temperature change in tissue. Power density—a measure of the amount of electromagnetic energy flowing through a two dimensional area of free air each second—fails to describe effects of millimeter waves on human tissue, because it does not consider the amount of energy reflected off the skin or the depth to which non-reflected energy penetrates before being absorbed. However, millimeter waves cause heating, which authors identify as a more physiologically relevant measure of risk.
The team has worked together to review literature and run simulations on the likely effects of mmWave cellular technology on consumers. Since millimeter waves dissipate quickly after being absorbed by the body, researchers needed a way to measure rapid temperature increases in small volumes. Perhaps the only method currently capable of such measurement is Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), capable of mapping temperature changes caused by electromagnetic fields. As such, MRI may play a key role in ensuring that safety standards for next generation mobile technology are appropriately set and enforced.
—Pawel A. Slabiak


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We gratefully acknowledge generous support for radiology research at NYU Langone Medical Center from:
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