A surface radio frequency coil was developed for small animal image acquisition in a pre-clinical magnetic resonance imaging system at 7 T. A flexible coil composed of two circular loops was developed to closely cover the object to be imaged. Electromagnetic numerical simulations were performed to evaluate its performance before the coil construction. An analytical expression of the mutual inductance for the two circular loops as a function of the separation between them was derived and used to validate the simulations. The RF coil is composed of two circular loops with a 5 cm external diameter and was tuned to 300 MHz and 50 Ohms matched. The angle between the loops was varied and the Q factor was obtained from the S11 simulations for each angle. B1 homogeneity was also evaluated using the electromagnetic simulations. The coil prototype was designed and built considering the numerical simulation results. To show the feasibility of the coil and its performance, saline-solution phantom images were acquired. A correlation of the simulations and imaging experimental results was conducted showing a concordance of 0.88 for the B1 field. The best coil performance was obtained at the 90° aperture angle. A more realistic phantom was also built using a formaldehyde-fixed rat phantom for ex vivo imaging experiments. All images showed a good image quality revealing clearly defined anatomical details of an ex vivo rat.
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