An open access MRI magnet includes a ferromagnetic frame open on at least two sides and having upper and lower end plates and at least two support columns. A superconducting coil assembly is mounted to each end plate for generating a magnetic flux field in a patient receiving area located between the end plates. Each superconducting coil assembly includes a toroidal vacuum tight vessel, insulation, and one or more temperature shields mounted within the vacuum tight vessel. One or more coils of superconducting wire is wound within the vacuum vessel, and is coupled to a power source and to a persistent switch for maintaining a constant flow of current with no power consumption. A return path for the flux is provided by the end plates and support posts of the frame. The superconducting coils, the thermal shields, and the persistent switch are cooled by a cryocooler, by means of conduction through solid thermal conductors or by a combination of conduction and convection, through a fluid cooling circuit, without the consumption of a liquid cryogen.
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