Iron nanoparticles for early detection of cancer

Early stage detection of tumours and cancerous cells requires the most sensitive and precise imaging of biological features in the body. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and magnetic particle imaging (MPI) are the latest techniques that are non-invasive and provides 3D information with high levels of detail. The unique magnetic properties of iron and iron oxide nanoparticles make these ideal candidates for this state-of-the-art application. These key magnetic properties are linked to the size and crystallinity of the nanoparticles. 

Electron microscopy

Figure 1: MRI images from iron-iron oxide core-shell nanoparticles injected into a mouse to enhance the contrast of a tumour (Tilley, Angew. Chem. – Int. Ed., 2012).


Using the leading edge of solution phase synthetic techniques, precise control over the nanoparticles and their magnetic properties can be achieved (Figure 2). In this project, well-defined nanoparticles with controlled crystalline domains will be studied for MPI. You will use transmission electron microscopy at one of the top microscopy facilities in Australia and be supervised by the director of the electron microscope unit, Professor Tilley. You will collaborate with leading researchers in MPI from Australia and internationally and work closely with a group of experts in nanoparticle synthesis. Overall, this work will tune nanoparticle size with precise synthetic control to optimise the magnetic properties of iron and iron oxide nanoparticles for MPI applications.

Electron microscopy

Figure 2: Transmission electron microscopy images of iron nanocubes and their magnetic properties for use in MPI.