Multi-time scale characterization of acoustic droplet vaporization and payload release of phase-shift emulsions using high-speed microscopy

Ultrason Sonochem. 2022 Aug;88:106090. doi: 10.1016/j.ultsonch.2022.106090. Epub 2022 Jul 7.


Acoustic droplet vaporization (ADV) is the phase-transitioning of perfluorocarbon emulsions, termed phase-shift emulsions, into bubbles using focused ultrasound. ADV has been utilized in many biomedical applications. For localized drug release, phase-shift emulsions with a bioactive payload can be incorporated within a hydrogel to yield an acoustically-responsive scaffold (ARS). The dynamics of ADV and associated drug release within hydrogels are not well understood. Additionally, emulsions used in ARSs often contain high molecular weight perfluorocarbons, which is unique relative to other ADV applications. In this study, we used ultra-high-speed brightfield and fluorescence microscopy, at frame rates up to 30 million and 0.5 million frames per second, respectively, to elucidate ADV dynamics and payload release kinetics in fibrin-based ARSs containing phase-shift emulsions with three different perfluorocarbons: perfluoropentane (PFP), perfluorohexane (PFH), and perfluorooctane (PFO). At an ultrasound excitation frequency of 2.5 MHz, the maximum expansion ratio, defined as the maximum bubble diameter during ADV normalized by the initial emulsion diameter, was 4.3 ± 0.8, 4.1 ± 0.6, and 3.6 ± 0.4, for PFP, PFH, PFO emulsions, respectively. ADV yielded stable bubble formation in PFP and PFH emulsions, though the bubble growth rate post-ADV was three orders of magnitudes slower in the latter emulsion. Comparatively, ADV generated bubbles in PFO emulsions underwent repeated vaporization/recondensation or fragmentation. Different ADV-generated bubble dynamics resulted in distinct release kinetics in phase-shift emulsions carrying fluorescently-labeled payloads. The results provide physical insight enabling the modulation of bubble dynamics with ADV and hence release kinetics, which can be used for both diagnostic and therapeutic applications of ultrasound.

Keywords: Acoustic droplet vaporization; High-speed microscopy; Hydrogel; Phase-shift emulsions; Release kinetics; Ultrasound.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustics
  • Emulsions
  • Fluorocarbons*
  • Hydrogels
  • Microscopy
  • Volatilization


  • Emulsions
  • Fluorocarbons
  • Hydrogels