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Past Winner
2007 Innovation Challenge Award

Andrew Marble

Open Bench-Top Magnetic Resonance for Quality and Process Control

University of New Brunswick


Andrew Marble, a recent PhD graduate in electrical and computer engineering from the University of New Brunswick, has devised an innovative design approach for magnetic resonance (MR) hardware that permits vastly greater applicability of MR instruments in industrial quality control.

The innovation, which has attracted considerable commercial interest, applies to single-sided or unilateral MR (UMR) magnets. Previously, UMR magnets were designed through trial and error for one-off applications. Dr. Marble has removed that guesswork by applying mathematical inversion techniques that automate and accelerate the magnet design process for a wide range of uses.

For his work, Dr. Marble has earned a $5,000 runner-up prize in this year's NSERC Innovation Challenge Awards. These awards honour students who have demonstrated an entrepreneurial flair by thinking of ways to transform their research thesis results into products and processes for the benefit of Canadians.

Widely known as an important tool in diagnostic medicine, MR is also used as a non-invasive probe in commercial activities. In industrial quality control, MR is used for making bulk measurements of material properties, such as fat content in food, and bitumen content in oil sands.

UMR instruments are considered advantageous because their open magnet design offers more testing versatility than standard MR devices, which are based on closed magnet arrangements. With the latter, samples to be probed must be placed inside the device, which limits the size and nature of the materials that can be measured. By contrast, with UMR, the materials can be probed outside the instrument, thereby removing all the limitations of closed systems.

Dr. Marble's open, table-top innovation has caught the attention of both MR device makers, including Bruker BioSpin, and large industrial users, such as German chemical giant BASF Group. In fact, Bruker BioSpin is an industrial partner in a project, funded under NSERC's Idea to Innovation Program, to commercialize the technology. The other partner involved in commercialization is Green Imaging Technologies Inc., a Fredericton-based start-up.

Dr. Marble, meanwhile, has decided to continue his career in academe. He has joined the faculty of St. Francis Xavier University as an assistant professor of electrical engineering.