Ultrafiltration of Protein Solutions: A Laboratory Experiment


  • Vikram J. Pansare Princeton University
  • Daniel Tien Princeton
  • Robert K. Prud’homme Princeton


Biology is playing an increasingly important role in the chemical engineering curriculum. We describe a set of experiments we have implemented in our Undergraduate Laboratory course giving students practical insights into membrane separation processes for protein processing. The goal of the lab is to optimize the purification and concentration of a protein by hollow-fiber, tangential-flow ultrafiltration. Experiments guide the students to an appreciation for concentration polarization, i.e. the buildup of a concentrated layer of solute on the membrane surface resulting from opposing processes of convection to the membrane surface and removal from the surface by diffusion and tangential flow. The experiment draws upon concepts the students will have seen in fluid mechanics, mass transfer, and separations courses. Optimization, the process of compromising between opposing phenomena, is demonstrated by having the students design a purification and concentration process that minimizes processing time. 

Author Biographies

Vikram J. Pansare, Princeton University

Vikram J. Pansare is a graduating PhD student in Chemical and Biological Engineering at Princeton University. He received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Purdue University in 2008. His research focuses on nanoparticle systems for biological imaging. 

Daniel Tien, Princeton

Daniel Tien graduated with a B.S. in Chemical and Biological Engineering from Princeton University in 2013. He is currently working at Novartis. 

Robert K. Prud’homme, Princeton

Robert K. Prud’homme is a Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Director of the Program in Engineering Biology at Princeton University. He received his BS at Stanford University and PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research interests include nanoparticle drug delivery systems and transport phenomena involving polymer, surfactants, and complex fluids.