We show that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used to visualize the spatiotemporal dynamics of iron oxide nanoparticle growth within a hydrogel network during in situ coprecipitation. The synthesis creates a magnetic nanoparticle loaded polymer gel, or magnetogel. During in situ coprecipitation, iron oxide nanoparticles nucleate and grow due to diffusion of a precipitating agent throughout an iron precursor loaded polymer network. The creation of iron oxide particles changes the magnetic properties of the gel, allowing the synthesis to be monitored via magnetic measurements. Formation of iron oxide nanoparticles generates dark, or hypointense, contrast in gradient echo (GRE) images acquired by MRI, allowing nanoparticle nucleation to be tracked in both space and time. We show that the growth of iron oxide nanoparticles in the hydrogel scaffold is consistent with models of diffusion in a swollen polymer network. We also show that the porosity of the gel, the diameter of iron oxide nanoparticles, and magnetometry can be correlated and used to describe magnetogel synthesis dynamics.
Magnetic nanoparticles, hydrogels, MRI