Ultrasound contrast agents (UCAs) are micron-sized gas bubbles encapsulated with thin shells on the order of nanometers thick. The damping effects of these viscoelastic coatings are widely known to significantly alter the bubble dynamics for linear and low-amplitude behavior; however, their effects on strongly nonlinear and destruction responses are much less studied.
This dissertation examines the behaviors of single collapsing shelled microbubbles using experimental and theoretical methods. The study of their dynamics is particularly relevant for emerging experimental uses of UCAs which seek to leverage localized mechanical forces to create or avoid specialized biomedical effects. The central component in this work is the study of postexcitation rebound and collapse, observed acoustically to identify shell rupture and transient inertial cavitation of single UCA microbubbles. This time-domain analysis of the acoustic response provides a unique method for characterization of UCA destruction dynamics.
The research contains a systematic documentation of single bubble postexcitation collapse through experimental measurement with the double passive cavitation detection (PCD) system at frequencies ranging from 0.9 to 7.1 MHz and peak rarefactional pressure amplitudes (PRPA) ranging from 230 kPa to 6.37 MPa. The double PCD setup is shown to improve the quality of collected data over previous setups by allowing symmetric responses from a localized confocal region to be identified. Postexcitation signal percentages are shown to generally follow trends consistent with other similar cavitation metrics such as inertial cavitation, with greater destruction observed at both increased PRPA and lower frequency over the tested ranges. Two different types of commercially available UCAs are characterized and found to have very different collapse thresholds; lipid-shelled Definity exhibits greater postexcitation at lower PRPAs than albumin-shelled Optison. Furthermore, by altering the size distributions of these UCAs, it is shown that the shell material has a large influence on the occurrence of postexcitation rebound at all tested frequencies while moderate alteration of the size distribution may only play a role with certain frequency ranges.
Finally, the conditions which generate this experimental postexcitation signal are examined theoretically using several forms of single bubble models. Evidence is provided for the usefulness of modeling this large amplitude UCA behavior with a size-varying surface tension as described in the Marmottant model; better agreement for lipid-shelled Definity UCAs is obtained by considering the dynamic response with a rupturing shell rather than either a non-rupturing or nonexistent shell. Moreover, the modeling indicates that maximum radial expansion from the initial UCA size is a suitable metric to predict postexcitation collapse, and that both shell rupture and inertial cavitation are necessary conditions to generate this behavior.
Postexcitation analysis is found to be a useful characterization metric for studying the destruction behaviors of single UCAs when measured with the double PCD setup. This work provides quantitative documentation of UCA collapse, exploration into UCA material properties which affect this collapse, and comparison of existing single bubble models with experimentally measured postexcitation signals.