Polypyrrole-Coated Perfluorocarbon Nanoemulsions as a Sono-Photoacoustic Contrast Agent

David S. Li, Soon Joon Yoon, Ivan Pelivanov, Martin Frenz, Matthew O’Donnell, Lilo D. Pozzo.

Nano Letters, 2017, 17 (10) pp 6184-6194.


A new contrast agent for combined photoacoustic and ultrasound imaging is presented. It has a liquid perfluorocarbon (PFC) core of about 250 nm diameter coated by a 30 nm thin polypyrrole (PPy) doped polymer shell emulsion that represents a broadband absorber covering the visible and near-infrared ranges (peak optical extinction at 1050 nm). When exposed to a sufficiently high intensity optical or acoustic pulse, the droplets vaporize to form microbubbles providing a strong increase in imaging sensitivity and specificity. The threshold for contrast agent activation can further drastically be reduced by up to 2 orders of magnitude if simultaneously exposing them with optical and acoustic pulses. The selection of PFC core liquids with low boiling points (i.e., perfluorohexane (56 °C), perfluoropentane (29 °C), and perfluorobutane (?2 °C)) facilitates activation and reduces the activation threshold of PPy-coated emulsion contrast agents to levels well within clinical safety limits (as low as 0.2 MPa at 1 mJ/cm2). Finally, the potential use of these nanoemulsions as a contrast agent is demonstrated in a series of phantom imaging studies.