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

Mathematics & Physics

Module Leader

FAUX David (Maths & Phys)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

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

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 117

Lecture Hours: 24

Laboratory Hours: 9

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative module content includes:

Ultrasonics theory, instrumentation and practice (9 hours)
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.


Ultrasound laboratory experiments (9 hours)

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.


Introduction to Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) theory and applications (15 hours)

An overview of MRI: capabilities and advantages.
A discussion of the vector model of NMR and an overview of the microscopic / quantum model.
A discussion of NMR relaxation times (T1, T2 and T2*) and the Bloch equations.
The FID, Spin-echo, CPMG, Saturation Recovery and Inversion Recovery experiments (pulse sequences and vector model description).

MRI fundamentals: frequency encoding with a read gradient; signal representation in the time and frequency domains; Fourier transformation; image resolution / field of view.

More advanced MRI concepts: k-space, the 2DFT or spin-warp experiment, echo planar imaging; slice selection; T2 and T1 image contrast methods; Diffusion contrast.

MRI equipment.

MRI application case studies, e.g.: detection and visualisation of cancer; musculoskeletal examinations; cardiology; functional MRI / neurology.


Site visit to a clinical MRI facility (circa 1.5 hours at facility)

Components of an MRI system. Imaging parameters. MR safety.


Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Oral exam or presentation Recorded poster presentation 30
Examination End of semester examination (2 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.

  • A 2-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 radiation 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

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.

  • One, 1.5 hour hospital site visit.


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
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: PHYM044

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Medical Physics 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

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 2023/4 academic year.