• imaging agents;
  • magnetic properties;
  • magnetite;
  • nanoparticles;
  • transverse relaxivity


Magnetic iron oxide particles are widely used as contrast agents to improve the sensitivity of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Their efficiency in MRI is usually quantified by transverse relaxivity (r2) in solution. Herein, we synthesized a series of magnetite nanocrystal clusters (MNCs) with ultra-high transverse relaxivity by a polyol process and studied the relationship between r2 and size of the MNCs. The sizes of MNCs can be tuned over a wide range from 13 to 179 nm. The r2 of MNC suspensions as a function of the size of the cluster was analyzed and compared with a theoretical model. We found that MNCs of 64 nm had an r2 value of 650 mM−1 s−1, which was more than three times that of the commercial contrast agent and was among the highest reported for iron oxide materials. Compared with the theoretical model, the r2 value of the MNC suspension is approximately 0.93 of the theoretical prediction. Imaging of the MNC suspensions was performed in a clinical 1.5 T MRI instrument and a comparison was made between MNCs and commercial contrast agents. MRI indicated that the decrease of signal intensity induced by MNCs was in proportion to the r2 value, which was in accordance with theoretical predictions. These results demonstrate that MNCs with ultra-high transverse relaxivity and tunable size are promising candidates for molecular imaging and clinical diagnosis in MRI.