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Phys Med Biol. 2013 Jul 7;58(13):4513-34. doi: 10.1088/0031-9155/58/13/4513. Epub 2013 Jun 13.

Phase-transition thresholds and vaporization phenomena for ultrasound phase-change nanoemulsions assessed via high-speed optical microscopy.

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  • 1Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering, The University of North Carolina and North Carolina State University, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.


Ultrasonically activated phase-change contrast agents (PCCAs) based on perfluorocarbon droplets have been proposed for a variety of therapeutic and diagnostic clinical applications. When generated at the nanoscale, droplets may be small enough to exit the vascular space and then be induced to vaporize with high spatial and temporal specificity by externally-applied ultrasound. The use of acoustical techniques for optimizing ultrasound parameters for given applications can be a significant challenge for nanoscale PCCAs due to the contributions of larger outlier droplets. Similarly, optical techniques can be a challenge due to the sub-micron size of nanodroplet agents and resolution limits of optical microscopy. In this study, an optical method for determining activation thresholds of nanoscale emulsions based on the in vitro distribution of bubbles resulting from vaporization of PCCAs after single, short (<10 cycles) ultrasound pulses is evaluated. Through ultra-high-speed microscopy it is shown that the bubbles produced early in the pulse from vaporized droplets are strongly affected by subsequent cycles of the vaporization pulse, and these effects increase with pulse length. Results show that decafluorobutane nanoemulsions with peak diameters on the order of 200 nm can be optimally vaporized with short pulses using pressures amenable to clinical diagnostic ultrasound machines.

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