The sound scattering of free microbubbles released from strongly driven ultrasound contrast agents with brittle shell (e.g., Sonovist®) is studied numerically. At high peak pressure of the driving pulses, the bubbles respond nonlinearly with cross sections pronouncedly larger than in the linear case; a large portion of the energy is radiated into high frequency ultrasound. Subsequent absorption of these high frequencies in the surrounding liquid (blood) diminishes the effective scattering cross section drastically. The absorption results in highly localized heating, with a substantial temperature rise within the first few μm from the bubble surface. The maximum heating in 1 μm distance is strongly dependent on driving pressure. Temperature elevations of more than 100 K can be achieved for amplitudes of Pa≈30 atm, which coincides with the highest pressures used in ultrasound diagnostics. The perfectly spherical collapses assumed here occur rarely, and the heating is highly localized and transient (∼10 μs). Therefore, a thermal hazard would only be expected at driving pressures beyond the diagnostic range.

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