This study focuses on spherical microparticles made of cross-linked alginate gel and microcapsules composed of an oil-in-water emulsion where the continuous aqueous phase is cross-linked into an alginate gel matrix. We have investigated the use of these easily manufactured microbeads as contrast agents for the study of the flow properties of fluids using nuclear magnetic resonance imaging. Results demonstrate that combined spin-spin (T2) relaxation and diffusion contrast in proton NMR imaging can be used to distinguish among rigid polymer particles, plain alginate beads, and alginate emulsion beads. Multi-echo CPMG spin-echo imaging indicates that the average spin-lattice (T1) and spin-spin (T2) relaxation times of the plain alginate and alginate emulsion beads are comparable. Meanwhile, diffusion-weighted imaging produces sharp contrast between the two types of alginate beads, due to restricted diffusion inside the embedded oil droplets of the alginate emulsion beads. While the signal obtained from most materials is severely attenuated under applied diffusion gradients, the alginate emulsion beads maintain signal strength. The alginate emulsion beads were added to a suspension and imaged in an abrupt, annular expansion flow. The emulsion beads could be clearly distinguished from the surrounding suspending fluid and rigid polystyrene particles, through either T2 relaxation or diffusion contrast. Such a capability allows future use of the alginate emulsion beads as tracer particles and as one particle type among many in a multimodal suspension where detailed concentration profiles or particle size separation must be quantified during flow.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Nuclear and High Energy Physics
- Condensed Matter Physics
- Contrast agent