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Also known as cross flow filtration (CFF), tangential flow filtration (TFF) is a fast and efficient technique for filtration and concentration of biological solutions or suspensions. In contrast to other membrane filtration methods, the sample solutions in TFF pass parallel to the filter rather than perpendicularly to it. A difference in pressure drives molecules that are smaller than the filter pore size through, leaving behind larger components, which continue to circulate in the solution. The large molecules pass along the membrane surface and flow back into the TFF system feed reservoir. Tangential flow filtration provides a consistent flow to enable easy optimization and reproducibility of results.

Applications of TFF

Tangential flow filtration applications vary widely across biopharmaceutical and medical industries. Used in labs for research, product development, and large-scale production, TFF is useful in both upstream and downstream bioprocesses. Key application areas are:

  • Concentration
  • Diafiltration
  • Cell harvesting
  • Cell or lysate clarification

Tangential flow filters

Tangential flow filtration filters are often categorized by filter configuration and/or by filter pore size.

1. Filter configuration

The two main filter configurations are hollow fiber filters or cartridges and cassette filters. Our ÄKTA™ tangential filtration systems accommodate both formats.

  • Hollow fiber cartridges comprise a membrane that creates a set of parallel hollow fibers. In these filters, feed streams pass through fiber lumens, where particles are separated out based on size. Single-use hollow fiber cartridges eliminate some preparation steps for easy and speedy drug bioprocessing.
  • Filter cassettes come in a housing that has many flat membrane sheets separated by support screens. Feed streams in cassettes pass into the space between sheets.

2. Membrane pore size

The two major classifications in hollow fiber cartridges based on pore size are microfiltration membranes and ultrafiltration membranes.

  • Microfiltration membranes have a pore size of 0.1 μm and larger. They support use in various applications such as the separation of cultured cells from growth media and removal of particles in bioprocessing of pharmaceuticals.
  • Ultrafiltration membranes have smaller pore sizes than microfiltration membranes. The nominal molecular weight cutoff (NMWC) is their key characteristic. These filters support use in various applications, such as concentration and fractionation of protein streams. Pore sizes range from NMWC of 1000 to 750 000.
  • Learn more about how we use capillary flow porometry to characterize our microfiltration membrane products.

    Hollow fiber cartridge FAQs

    Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about hollow fiber cartridges.

    What is hollow fiber technology?

    Hollow fiber cartridges are made up parallel strands of hollow fibers that form a semipermeable membrane. The fibers separate particles from mixtures based on size as the mixture is passed along the membrane.

    What is a hollow fiber cartridge?

    Hollow fiber cartridges are TFF filters that comprise sets of parallel hollow fibers.

    What is a hollow fiber UF membrane?

    Hollow fiber UF membranes are hollow fiber filters for ultrafiltration.