Nanopump Separation Device and Method

A device for separating macromolecules in a solution of macromolecules having different molecular sizes

The Need

Many clinical and research applications involve separation of specific biological molecules, such as nucleic acids and proteins, for further analysis and characterization. A complex biological system can only be understood after each component has been separately analyzed, and proteins must be purified before the structure and the mechanism of action can be studied. Because proteins vary in size, charge, and water solubility, isolating a protein is a difficult task that requires methods to both separate and detect specific proteins.

The Technology

Researchers at The Ohio State University, led by Dr. Derek Hansford, developed a device that separates macromolecules in a solution composed of macromolecules that vary in molecular size. The device includes a chamber and a nanopore membrane, which partitions the chamber into upstream and downstream regions. When a voltage potential is applied across the membrane, electroosmotic flow through the membrane channels produces a precise-volume flow between the two chamber regions. The separation chamber utilizes membranes with a plurality of flow-through channels. When exposed to a solution within a given pH range, these flow-through channels extend between adjacent chamber regions with a net surface charge.

Commercial Applications

  • Biological molecule filtration
  • Small-volume pumps
  • Medical devices


  • Minimum membrane cross-sectional dimensions of 2 nm - 100 nm
  • A net surface charge develops when exposed to a solution within a given pH range
  • Variable properties can be tailored for highly specific applications
  • Can be used to filter macromolecules contained in a solution with successively smaller macromolecules in successively more downstream chamber regions

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