High-throughput screening of factors influencing polyelectrolyte complexation

Polluted drinking water is a timeless, global problem. Water purification is typically done via membranes, separating undesired elements from the drinking water. However, the membrane themselves are produced using (environmentally) harmful chemicals. For this reason, a new technique to produce membranes using polyelectrolytes is being investigated. Polyelectrolytes are polymers with charged monomeric units. Mixing oppositely charged polyelectrolytes results in interaction and the formation of (solid) polyelectrolyte complexes.

Chemically, biomolecules such as proteins or DNA have properties similar to polyelectrolytes. These properties allow us to incorporate these biomolecules into the polyelectrolyte complexes, with the hope of eventually producing a polyelectrolyte membrane containing active biomolecules. A lot of different factors influence the degree of complexation and incorporation such as the ratio of the different polyelectrolytes, amount of polyelectrolytes, use of salts (e.g. NaCl), and temperature. It is very time consuming to manually try every permutation of conditions to find the optimal condition.

In this research we would like to create a protocol for the use of an automated pipetting machine to create a ‘map’ or database of conditions and their effect on complexation. The pipetting machine is currently accessible, but we have no experience with it. We would like to know whether the use of this machine is a feasible way for high-throughput screening. This can be evaluated by using the machine to repeat experiments done manually and seeing if they correspond. If the protocol is functional, we could start investigating new polyelectrolyte and biomolecule combinations. If it is not functional, we would like to know what possible steps can be taken to make it functional.

Department: Nanobiophysics (NBP)
Daily Supervisor: Jéré van Lente, j.j.vanlente(at)utwente.nl
Project Leader: Saskia Lindhoud, s.lindhoud(at)utwente.nl