Electromechanical Lysis of Bacterial Pathogens using Ion Concentration Polarization


This technology uses ion concentration polarization (ICP) to electromechanically lyse bacteria. It can harvest the resulting intracellular biomaterials (e.g., DNA, RNA, and proteins) and metabolites (e.g., biodiesels, bioplastics, antibiotics, and antibodies). It may also be used industrially as a large-scale, continuous, power-efficient, and portable sterilization device for water disinfection, wastewater treatment, cleaning aquariums, and food/beverage sterilization.

Problem Addressed

Electrical cell permeation is currently the preferred lysis technique. It is a simple process without lytic additives, enabling prompt lysis of cells. However, electrical cell permeation requires high voltage electric fields that often result in intracellular biomolecule degradation, bacterial sample overheating, and undesirable bubble generation. Non-optimal low voltage levels and low-salinity solutions must be used to compensate for these impediments. This produces incomplete lysis and lower throughput. This electromechanical lysis invention enables the rapid, continuous, versatile, and high-throughput lysis of various bacterial pathogens by applying a very low voltage.


This bacterial lysis mechanism generates ICP near the ion selective membranes of the bacteria to shear and electrically permeate the bacteria. This enables the use of low voltage electric fields (100-300 V/cm) in common buffers such as phosphate to lyse the bacteria. This technique facilitates the recovery of intracellular biomaterials such as proteins and RNA’s from both easy-to-lyse and hard-to-lyse bacteria that previously required low salinity solutions and extremely high electric fields (4000-8000 V/cm). This technology can be adjusted to lyse bacteria at large scales by combining multiple lysis mechanisms into a laterally-arrayed electromechanical lysis device.


  • Low-voltage lysing technique facilitates harvesting of intracellular biomaterials
  • Can be used at large scales for water treatment
  • Enables continuous, high-throughput lysis of bacteria