Physical Sciences : Physics
Available for licensing
- Kent Davey, Ph.D. , Center for Electromechanics
Electroporation is a process by which a biological cell is exposed to a high-voltage electric potential to generate transitory pores in the cell membrane. The pores allow large molecules, such as nucleic acids and proteins, to enter the cell from a medium in which the cell is stored. As a means of infusing biological cells with various types of molecules, electroporation is particularly useful in placing foreign DNA inside living cells; electroporation has also been used extensively in transferring drugs to the interior of a living cell. In addition, it can be utilized to kill bacteria and yeast, as well as in the fermentation process of grapes to make wine.
Strong pulsed fields induce irreversible pores in the membranes of biological cells. The increased permeability of the cell walls allows extraction of key components from the cytoplasm, providing the basic materials for food and chemical industries as well as the destruction of microorganisms in aquatic systems. With one exception, all industrial applications achieve the necessary electric field by means of a voltage applied across electrodes. The process is extremely power-intensive.
The alternative introduced by this invention is generating a pulsed magnetic field through closed magnetic yokes in the processing flow path. The power required to generate the maximum flux through the system is considerably less than that required with electrodes since it avoids half cell reaction through the electrodes. Another primary advantage is elimination of electrode contamination and corrosion.
This magnetic electroporation invention has the potential to revolutionize the food processing industry. By destroying cell membranes with penetrating bursts of electric fields, the new method simultaneously unlocks the gates to cellular resources and destroys any harmful microorganisms that may have found their way into the food supply. Unlike other electroporation techniques, the magnetic electroporation developed at The University of Texas at Austin is not a power-intensive process, and unlike the chemical and thermal extraction and disinfections steps, taste loss is minimal.
- Reduced power requirements
- Allows the medium to fully surround the yoke
- Eliminates electrodes with half cell reactions
- Enables through-volume exposure
Any application in the food or chemical industries where the raw material targeted for extraction is contained within cellular cytoplasm. Sugar extraction from sugar beets and sugar cane, syrup extraction from maple sap, and extraction of tanning agents from grapes during winemaking are all processes that can be greatly improved using this technology.
Beta product/commercial prototype
- 1 U.S. patent issued: 8,673,623