Hyperpolarized (83)Kr surface quadrupolar relaxation (SQUARE) generates MRI contrast that was previously shown to correlate with surface-to-volume ratios in porous model surface systems. The underlying physics of SQUARE contrast is conceptually different from any other current MRI methodology as the method uses the nuclear electric properties of the spin I = 9/2 isotope (83)Kr. To explore the usage of this non-radioactive isotope for pulmonary pathophysiology, MRI SQUARE contrast was acquired in excised rat lungs obtained from an elastase-induced model of emphysema. A significant (83)Kr T1 relaxation time increase in the SQUARE contrast was found in the elastase-treated lungs compared with the baseline data from control lungs. The SQUARE contrast suggests a reduction in pulmonary surface-to-volume ratio in the emphysema model that was validated by histology. The finding supports usage of (83)Kr SQUARE as a new biomarker for surface-to-volume ratio changes in emphysema.