Module code: PHYM044

Module Overview

The module is designed to give students knowledge of the basic physics that underpins nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMR / MRI) and ultrasound, together with details of common imaging strategies.It delivers material on the basic principles of NMR and medical MRI . It also provides an introduction to ultrasound, a major non-ionising radiation imaging modality, with lectures complemented by three laboratory sessions.

Module provider


Module Leader

MCDONALD PJ Prof (Physics)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

JACs code: F350

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content includes:

Prof P McDonald                         12 hours

Introduction to NMR Spectroscopy, Imaging and Signal Analysis

A microscopic (energy level) approach to NMR; a macroscopic (magnetisation vector) approach; relaxation; the Bloch equations; and pulsed NMR; T1, T2 and T2* relaxation.

MRI fundamentals:  encoding in the slice, frequency and phase directions; the 2DFT or spin-warp, echo planar imaging and back projection imaging methods; image contrast; components of an MRI system.

Signal representation in the time and frequency domains;; Fourier transforms; k-space and image resolution.


TBC                                                12 hours

Prof M Sperrin

Ultrasonics theory, instrumentation and practice

Nature of ultrasound, ultrasonic wave parameters, linear wave propagation, speed, compressibility, impedance, pressure, phase, intensity, power, reflection, refraction, scattering, absorption, attenuation;  Piezoelectric effect, single element transducer, pulse shape, measurement of acoustic field, pulse repetition frequency, pulse repetition period, wave front, beam shapes, near field, far field, focusing;  ultrasound imaging, Doppler, quality assurance, artifacts (Imaging and Doppler); Interaction of ultrasound with tissue, possible biological effects;  Measurement of the acoustic output parameters.

Production and assessment of Ultrasound scans.  Probe design.  Interaction of ultrasound with tissue.    Resolution.  Digitisation and signal processing.  Synthetic aperture techniques.  Harmonic imaging.  Measurement errors.  Quality assurance & phantoms.

The Doppler equation.  Uses of Doppler.  Indexes of wave shape and applications.  Frequency analysis techniques.  Pulse Doppler.  Colour representation of blood flow. Artifacts.


Dr S Pani                                    9 hours

Dr R A Bacon

Ultrasound laboratory experiments

Students will perform three experiments on the physics of ultrasound, from a set including:

1.  Determination of the sound speed, acoustic impedance, reflection coefficients and attenuation of materials using pulse-echo ultrasound.

2.  Measurement of fluid flow using a simple portable diagnostic Doppler ultrasound system of the kind frequently met in medical practice. 

3.  Plotting the acoustic field radiated by an ultrasound transducer using a state-of-the-art pvdf needle probe hydrophone.

4.  Investigation of acoustic streaming and banding and cavitation in high-intensity acoustic fields.

5.  Measurement of the power output of therapy-level transducers using a tethered float radiometer.

6. Imaging of ultrasound quality assurance phantoms using a clinical scanner.


Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Examination EXAM - 1.5 HOURS 70

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy for this module is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate that they have broad understanding of the principles of MRI and ultrasound imaging and that they can calculate suitable imaging system parameters for different scenarios.


Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

A poster presentation on an ultrasound experiment, to be given typically in week 9 or 10.

An 1.5 hour, closed-book examination, with three questions to be answered out of five.


Formative assessment

A series of tutorial problems designed to address how students calculate suitable imaging system parameters for different scenarios will be set and subsequently discussed.

Additionally self-diagnosis multiple choice questions for MRI.



Students will receive written feedback associated with their laboratory presentation and will discuss problems both in tutorial sessions and in laboratory classes.


Module aims

  • To introduce students to the basic principles of two major non-ionising┬áradiation imaging modalities that can be expected to be encountered in large clinical/hospital environments.
  • To provide the student with the theoretical skills necessary to understand the physics behind the operation of NMR and ultrasound imaging applications.
  • To give students practical skills on the use of ultrasound transducers and of clinical ultrasound instrumentation.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Identify the primary components of an MRI scanner. KC
002 Critically describe the generation of a free-induction-decay and spin echo signals and their utilisation for magnetic resonance imaging KC
003 Critically describe the concept of k-space and solve problems relating to Fourier techniques for magnetic resonance image generation KC
004 Critically describe the different contrast mechanisms used in MRI, with particular emphasis on relaxation contrast KC
005 Critically describe the determinants of image resolution, signal-to-noise ratio and acquisition time KC
006 Understand how to determine and set the key experimental parameters available to those conducting an MRI scan KC
007 Manipulate the wave equation (in relation to acoustics) and analyse sound propagation in various systems, including propagation across boundaries KC
008 Apply physics techniques in a variety of multidisciplinary contexts KPT
009 Appreciate the possibilities offered by complex digital hardware, including image processing KT
010 Apply their knowledge when taking up posts within the Health Service and other related fields KPT
011 Independently solve problems in a systematic manner PT
012 Appraise safety issues relating to the use of ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging in the workplace and elsewhere KPT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Overall student workload

Independent Study Hours: 117

Lecture Hours: 24

Laboratory Hours: 20

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to provide students with both a theoretical and practical understanding of the two imaging modalities.


The learning and teaching methods include:

Eight 3-hour sessions of formal lectures and occasional large group tutorial-question sessions. Teaching given by handouts, data projector and white board presentations and notes.
Three 3-hour laboratory practical exercises.


Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list


Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Medical Imaging MSc 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Physics MSc 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Medical Physics MSc 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2018/9 academic year.