Probing the chemical stability of mixed ferrites: Implications for magnetic resonance contrast agent design

Elise A. Schultz-Sikma, Hrushikesh M. Joshi, Qing Ma, Keith W. MacRenaris, Amanda L. Eckermann, Vinayak P. Dravid, Thomas J. Meade*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Nanomaterials with mixed composition, in particular magnetic spinel ferrites, are emerging as efficient contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging. Many factors, including size, composition, atomic structure, and surface properties, are crucial in the design of such nanoparticle-based probes because of their influence on the magnetic properties. Silica-coated iron oxide (IO-SiO2) and cobalt ferrite (CoIO-SiO2) nanoparticles were synthesized using standard high-temperature thermal decomposition and basecatalyzed water-in-oil microemulsion techniques. Under neutral aqueous conditions, it was found that 50°75% of the cobalt content in the CoIO-SiO2 nanoparticles leached out of the core structure. Leaching caused a 7.2-fold increase in the longitudinal relaxivity and an increase in the saturation magnetization from ∼48 to ∼65 emu/g of the core. X-ray absorption fine structure studies confirmed that the atomic structure of the ferrite core was altered following leaching, while transmission electron microscopy and dynamic light scattering confirmed that the morphology and size of the nanoparticle remained unchanged. The CoIO-SiO2 nanoparticles converted from a partially inverted spinel cation arrangement (unleached state) to an inverse spinel arrangement (leached state). The control IO-SiO2 nanoparticles remained stable with no change in the structure and negligible changes in the magnetic behavior. This detailed analysis highlights how important understanding the properties of nanomaterials is in the development of reliable agents for diagnostic and therapeutic applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2657-2664
Number of pages8
JournalChemistry of Materials
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 24 2011


  • Ferrite
  • Leaching
  • MRI
  • Magnetic properties
  • Nanoparticle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Materials Chemistry


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