Phase Partitioning in Space and on Earth

  • James M. Van Alstine
  • Laurel J. Karr
  • J. Milton Harris
  • Robert S. Snyder
  • Stephan B. Bamberger
  • Helen C. Matsos
  • Peter A. Curreri
  • John Boyce
  • Donald E. Brooks
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 225)


In aqueous solution at low concentrations, the neutral polymers dextran and poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) rapidly form a two-phase system consisting of a PEG-rich phase floating on top of a dextran-rich phase. Biological particles and macromolecules tend to partition differentially between the phases and the liquid-liquid phase interface in these systems. Bioparticle partitioning has been shown to be related to physiologically important surface properties such as membrane charge or lipid composition.

Affinity partitioning into the PEG-rich phase can be accomplished by coupling PEG to a ligand having affinity for specific cells or macromolecules. Subpopulations can be identified or separated using multi-step countercurrent distribution (CCD).

Incomplete understanding of the influence of gravity on the efficiency and quality of the impressive separations achievable by partitioning, and appreciation for the versatility of this efficient technique, have led to its study for low-gravity biomaterials processing. On Earth, two-phase systems rapidly demix because of density differences between the phases. In low-gravity, demixing has been shown to occur primarily by coalescence. Polymer surface coatings, developed to control localization of demixed phases in low-g, have been found to control electroosmosis which adversely affects electrophoretic separation processes on Earth and in space. In addition PEG-derivatized antibodies have been synthesized for use in immunoaffinity cell partitioning.


Interfacial Tension Phase System Affinity Ligand Countercurrent Distribution Phase Droplet 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • James M. Van Alstine
    • 2
    • 1
  • Laurel J. Karr
    • 1
  • J. Milton Harris
    • 3
  • Robert S. Snyder
    • 1
  • Stephan B. Bamberger
    • 4
  • Helen C. Matsos
    • 1
  • Peter A. Curreri
    • 1
  • John Boyce
    • 5
  • Donald E. Brooks
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Biophysics Branch, ES76, Space Science LaboratoryNASA/Marshall Space Flight CenterHuntsvilleUSA
  2. 2.Universities Space Research AssociationUSA
  3. 3.Department of ChemistryUniversity of Alabama at HuntsvilleHuntsvilleUSA
  4. 4.Department of NeurologyOregon Health Sciences UniversityPortlandUSA
  5. 5.Departments of Pathology and ChemistryUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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