Improvements to contrast media formulations may be an effective way to increase the accuracy and effectiveness of thoracic computed tomography (CT) imaging in disease evaluation. To achieve contrast enhancement in the lungs, a relatively large localized concentration of contrast media must be delivered. Inhalation offers a noninvasive alternative to intrapleural injections for local lung delivery, but effective aerosolization may deter successful imaging strategies. Here, NanoCluster technology was applied to N1177, a diatrizoic acid derivative, to formulate low density nanoparticle agglomerates with aerodynamic diameters <or=5 microm. Excipient-free N1177 NanoCluster powders were delivered to rats by insufflation or inhalation and scanned using CT up to 1 h post dose. CT images after inhalation showed a approximately 120 (HU) Hounsfield units contrast increase in the lungs, which was more than sufficient contrast for thoracic CT imaging. Lung tissue histology demonstrated that N1177 NanoClusters did not damage the lungs. NanoCluster particle engineering technology offers a novel approach to safely and efficiently disseminate high concentrations of contrast agents to the lung periphery.