Are monodisperse phospholipid-coated microbubbles “mono-acoustic?”

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Phospholipid-coated microbubbles with a uniform acoustic response are a promising avenue for functional ultrasound sensing. A uniform acoustic response requires both a monodisperse size distribution and uniform viscoelastic shell properties. Monodisperse microbubbles can be produced in a microfluidic flow focusing device. Here, we investigate whether such monodisperse microbubbles have uniform viscoelastic shell properties and thereby a uniform “mono-acoustic” response. To this end, we visualized phase separation of the DSPC and DPPE-PEG5000 lipid shell components and measured the resonance curves of nearly 2000 single and freely floating microbubbles using a high-frequency acoustic scattering technique. The results demonstrate inhomogeneous phase-separated shell microdomains across the monodisperse bubble population, which may explain the measured inhomogeneous viscoelastic shell properties. The shell viscosity varied over an order of magnitude and the resonance frequency by a factor of two indicating both a variation in shell elasticity and in initial surface tension despite the relatively narrow size distribution.