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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Theory, simulation and experimental results of the acoustic detection of magnetization changes in superparamagnetic iron oxide

Bernhard Gleich1, Jürgen Weizenecker2 and Jörn Borgert1*

Author Affiliations

1 Tomographic Imaging Group, Philips Technologie GmbH Innovative Technologies, Research Laboratories, Röntgenstraße 24-26, 22335 Hamburg, Germany

2 Department of Electrical Engineering, University for Applied Sciences, Moltkestraße 30, 76133 Karlsruhe, Germany

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BMC Medical Imaging 2011, 11:16  doi:10.1186/1471-2342-11-16

Published: 29 June 2011



Magnetic Particle Imaging is a novel method for medical imaging. It can be used to measure the local concentration of a tracer material based on iron oxide nanoparticles. While the resulting images show the distribution of the tracer material in phantoms or anatomic structures of subjects under examination, no information about the tissue is being acquired. To expand Magnetic Particle Imaging into the detection of soft tissue properties, a new method is proposed, which detects acoustic emissions caused by magnetization changes in superparamagnetic iron oxide.


Starting from an introduction to the theory of acoustically detected Magnetic Particle Imaging, a comparison to magnetically detected Magnetic Particle Imaging is presented. Furthermore, an experimental setup for the detection of acoustic emissions is described, which consists of the necessary field generating components, i.e. coils and permanent magnets, as well as a calibrated microphone to perform the detection.


The estimated detection limit of acoustic Magnetic Particle Imaging is comparable to the detection limit of magnetic resonance imaging for iron oxide nanoparticles, whereas both are inferior to the theoretical detection limit for magnetically detected Magnetic Particle Imaging. Sufficient data was acquired to perform a comparison to the simulated data. The experimental results are in agreement with the simulations. The remaining differences can be well explained.


It was possible to demonstrate the detection of acoustic emissions of magnetic tracer materials in Magnetic Particle Imaging. The processing of acoustic emission in addition to the tracer distribution acquired by magnetic detection might allow for the extraction of mechanical tissue parameters. Such parameters, like for example the velocity of sound and the attenuation caused by the tissue, might also be used to support and improve ultrasound imaging. However, the method can also be used to perform imaging on its own.