Magnetic particle imaging (MPI) uses safe iron oxide nanoparticle tracers to offer fundamentally new capabilities for medical imaging, in applications as vascular imaging and ultra-sensitive cancer therapeutics. MPI is perhaps the first medical imaging platform to intrinsically exploit nanoscale material properties. MPI tracers contain magnetic nanoparticles whose tunable, size-dependent magnetic properties can be optimized by selecting a particular particle size and narrow size-distribution. In this paper we present experimental MPI measurements acquired using a homemade MPI magnetometer: a zero-dimensional MPI imaging system designed to characterize tracer performance by measuring the derivative of the time-varying tracer magnetization, M'(H(t)), at a driving frequency of 25 kHz. We show that MPI performance is optimized by selecting phase-pure magnetite tracers of a particular size and narrow size distribution; in this work, tracers with 20 nm median diameter, log-normal distribution shape parameter, σ(v), equal to 0.26, and hydrodynamic diameter equal to 30 nm showed the best performance. Furthermore, these optimized MPI tracers show 4 × greater signal intensity (measured at the third harmonic) and 20% better spatial resolution compared with commercial nanoparticles developed for MRI.
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