Effect of Europium Substitution on the Structural, Magnetic and Relaxivity Properties of Mn-Zn Ferrite Nanoparticles: A Dual-Mode MRI Contrast-Agent Candidate
Magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) have been widely applied as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agents. MNPs offer significant contrast improvements in MRI through their tunable relaxivities, but to apply them as clinical contrast agents effectively, they should exhibit a high saturation magnetization, good colloidal stability and sufficient biocompatibility. In this work, we present a detailed description of the synthesis and the characterizations of europium-substituted Mn–Zn ferrite (Mn 0.6 Zn 0.4 Eu x Fe 2− x O 4 , x = 0.00, 0.02, 0.04, 0.06, 0.08, 0.10, and 0.15, herein named MZF for x = 0.00 and EuMZF for others). MNPs were synthesized by the coprecipitation method and subsequent hydrothermal treatment, coated with citric acid (CA) or pluronic F127 (PF-127) and finally characterized by X-ray Diffraction (XRD), Inductively Coupled Plasma (ICP), Vibrating Sample Magnetometry (VSM), Fourier-Transform Infrared (FTIR), Dynamic Light Scattering (DLS) and MRI Relaxometry at 3T methods. The XRD studies revealed that all main diffraction peaks are matched with the spinel structure very well, so they are nearly single phase. Furthermore, XRD study showed that, although there are no significant changes in lattice constants, crystallite sizes are affected by europium substitution significantly. Room-temperature magnetometry showed that, in addition to coercivity, both saturation and remnant magnetizations decrease with increasing europium substitution and coating with pluronic F127. FTIR study confirmed the presence of citric acid and poloxamer (pluronic F127) coatings on the surface of the nanoparticles. Relaxometry measurements illustrated that, although the europium-free sample is an excellent negative contrast agent with a high r 2 relaxivity, it does not show a positive contrast enhancement as the concentration of nanoparticles increases. By increasing the europium to x = 0.15, r 1 relaxivity increased significantly. On the contrary, europium substitution decreased r 2 relaxivity due to a reduction in saturation magnetization. The ratio of r 2 / r 1 decreased from 152 for the europium-free sample to 11.2 for x = 0.15, which indicates that Mn 0.6 Zn 0.4 Eu 0.15 Fe 1.85 O 4 is a suitable candidate for dual-mode MRI contrast agent potentially. The samples with citric acid coating had higher r 1 and lower r 2 relaxivities than those of pluronic F127-coated samples.