2018 Katharine Burr Blodgett Medal and Prize

Drs Michael Begg and Jim Ramage of Tesla Engineering Ltd for the transformation of Tesla Engineering Ltd from a manufacturer of conventional magnets for particle accelerators into a world leader of magnets for high-energy physics, MRI and oncology equipment.

2018 Katharine Burr Blodgett Medal and Prize Begg
Dr Michael Begg
2018 Katharine Burr Blodgett Medal and Prize Begg Ramage
Dr James Ramage

Drs Michael Begg and Jim Ramage have transformed Tesla Engineering Ltd, over more than 20 years, from a manufacturer of conventional magnets for high-energy physics, into a world leader additionally supplying MRI and radiation oncology equipment. This involved extending in-house experience to encompass superconducting systems, an expansion involving not just full acquaintance with superconducting theory but also developing novel processes, engineering know-how and tooling, meeting the critical demands of this technology.

Applying multi-physics and new materials, coils have been developed that are smaller and lighter than those from all other suppliers, with optimised electro-mechanical properties from 4K to 200C. Such processes have led to a portfolio of 12 patents and one pending, generating many commercially important product firsts. Examples include:

  • the first direct water-cooled gradient coil (1995), increasing gradient field, reducing coil space, enhancing image resolution and enlarging patient space
  • the first rotatable cryostat for a compact 10T proton-therapy synchrocyclotron (2007), rotatable over ±95˚, enabling the beam to be directed without additional gantry magnets, reducing costs and space

Tesla is now working with others to produce an advanced 7T MRI system occupying the same space as 3T systems, decreasing costs of high field MRI. Tesla’s developments include:

  • Restraining ≈ 250 MPa hoop stresses
  • Conduction-cooled designs requiring only a few litres of circulating liquid helium
  • Quench protection capable of non-destructively dissipating 69MJ in seconds

Accurate process monitoring and rigorous control are vital for these systems.

Innovative, physics-backed engineering has made Tesla a global leader for performance-critical electromagnets for medical equipment. It now annually produces more than 1000 gradient coils for MRI systems, supplying Philips, Hitachi, Toshiba, GE and smaller manufacturers – probably more than any other company.

Tesla supplies conventional and superconducting magnets to all the major manufacturers of Proton Beam Therapy systems, working closely with all major international accelerator laboratories in the UK, Europe, the US and Japan.

Tesla now has sales of about £50m, over 97% exported. It employs more than 450 people in the UK, the Netherlands and the US where, additional to Tesla’s main market areas, the group supplies specialised coils for the US navy and the nuclear industry.

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