Particle-based magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agents have been the focus of recent studies, primarily due to the possibility of preparing multimodal particles capable of simultaneously targeting, imaging, and treating specific biological tissues in vivo. In addition, particle-based MRI contrast agents often have greater sensitivity than commercially available, soluble agents due to decreased molecular tumbling rates following surface immobilization, leading to increased relaxivities. Mesoporous silica particles are particularly attractive substrates due to their large internal surface areas. In this study, we immobilized a unique phosphonate-containing ligand onto mesoporous silica particles with a range of pore diameters, pore volumes, and surface areas, and Gd(III) ions were then chelated to the particles. Per-Gd(III) ionic relaxivities ranged from ∼2 to 10 mM(-1) s(-1) (37 °C, 60 MHz), compared to 3.0-3.5 mM(-1) s(-1) for commercial agents. The large surface areas allowed many Gd(III) ions to be chelated, leading to per-particle relaxivities of 3.3 × 10(7) mM(-1) s(-1), which is the largest value measured for a biologically suitable particle.