Microwave-assisted synthesis of highly crystalline, multifunctional iron oxide nanocomposites for imaging applications†
We report a reproducible single-step, microwave-assisted approach for the preparation of multifunctional magnetic nanocomposites comprising superparamagnetic iron oxide (Fe3O4) cores, a polyelectrolyte stabilizer and an organic dye with no requirement for post-processing. The stabilisers poly(sodium 4-styrenesulfonate) (PSSS) and sodium polyphosphate (SPP) have been thoroughly investigated and from analysis using electron microscopy, dynamic light scattering measurements, magnetic hysteresis and magnetic resonance (MR) imaging, we show that the higher degree of Fe3O4 nanoparticle crystallinity achieved with the PSSS stabiliser leads to enhanced magnetic behaviour and thus better contrast agent relaxivity compared to the less crystalline, poorly defined particles obtained when SPP is employed as a stabiliser. We also demonstrate the potential for obtaining a multifunctional magnetic-fluorescent nanocomposite using our microwave-assisted synthesis. In this manner, we demonstrate the intimate link between synthetic methodology (microwave heating with a polyelectrolyte stabilizer) and the resulting properties (particle size, shape, and magnetism) and how this underpins the functionality of the resulting nanocomposites as agents for biomedical imaging.